“Please Don’t Hurt Us”: Reflections on Transgender Day of Remembrance 2011
November 21, 2011 2 Comments
A couple of weeks ago I asked a transgender acquaintance of mine, who I have the utmost respect and appreciation for, if they would be willing to write a piece for the Idaho Agenda for Transgender Day of Remembrance.
The friend not only turned me down because they were too busy, but later shot me an e-mail taking exception to one of the posts that I had written listing the days events because I had cut and pasted an announcement that used a typically degrading word for transgender people to advertise an event she was speaking at.
I knew how derogatory the term was, but at the time shrugged it off as someone using the term to make a political point.
I explained to my friend that the announcement was cut and pasted as is.
I had understood their frustration, but not necessarily the tone or the lack of apology once I had explained the situation. I changed my posting but not without feeling a bit slighted.
In short, my feelings were hurt.
Last night, as a dozen or so of us gathered to remember the 119 transgender men and women who have died within the last year, the local television station showed up to cover the event.
The reporter explained that she didn’t have the right lighting. Several of us gathered around her, with candles in hand, and lit up a local woman who identified herself as transsexual so that she could be interviewed.
As she was talking to the reporter, there wasn’t hardly a dry eye in the crowd. She told of her struggles growing up, the rejection from her friends and family, the thoughts of suicide she had before deciding to live her life fully and openly.
As she was speaking, I started to think about the incident earlier in the week. Of course my transgender friend was upset. I would be too if someone had called me something like “faggot” in an announcement that had been repeated over and over again.
I of all people know the power of words and how they can hurt.
I also know that the threats to the transgender community outnumber the threats to the average gay or lesbian. According to SDGLN.com,”The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs released a report in 2010 that found that transgender women are disproportionately impacted by murder, accounting for 44% of gay and transgender murder victims that year.
Another study by the National Black Justice Coalition found that black transgender and gender non-conforming people face some of the highest levels of discrimination of all transgender people, saying that members of this group had an extremely high unemployment rate at 26%; 41% said they experienced homelessness at some point in their lives; 34% reported a household income of less than $10,000 per year; and were affected by HIV in devastating numbers.”
One of the attendees to the Twin Falls vigil turned out to be a Baptist minister who started preaching about the sin of homosexuality. As we turned away from his words to focus on the 118 names of those who have died in the last year due to violence and hatred, I couldn’t help but be angry.
Angry at the lives being lost simply because people are trying to live there lives as they are, angry because that preacher couldn’t even begin to understand how much pain and harm his words and beliefs had caused, angry because I had chosen to re-post something that had caused my friend further discomfort and even hurt, no matter what my intentions had been.
The plea during that television interview will haunt those of us gathered in the candlelight for a long, long time I suspect.
“”Do not hurt us please.”
Their story is written in the statistics, “A 2003 Idaho survey of more than 2000 Idahoans including more than 50 transgender individuals, found that 16% of the transgender individuals reported that their employer actually stated they had been denied a job, a raise, promotion or compensation expressly because they were perceived to be gay or transgender.
The same 2003 survey found that 81% of transgender participants reported that they had been harassed verbally by someone using antagonistic slurs that indicated that they thought or knew their victim was transgender or gay.
Over half of transgender participants in the 2003 Idaho study reported that someone had threatened to do physical harm to them, their partner, child, pet, or other family member because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
In the 2003 study of the 50 transgender participants, 34% said they had attempted suicide at some point in their lives.”
As we closed out the night with a moment of silence, my anger turned once again to resolve. These precious people are part of my family, my community, my town, country and world. They are among the bravest people I know. My resolve is this: as long as I’m able to breathe, I will do all I can to speak out against words and actions that would cause this beautiful community any harm or hurt.
Should i misstep in that resolve, hopefully someone will always be there to point it out, God help us if they aren’t.
Watch the KMVT news report about the Twin Falls vigil HERE.
To learn more about helping to stop the discrimination of trandsgender, lesbian, gay, bisexual, asexual, queer and intersexual community in Idaho please click HERE.