Valentine’s Day is a made-up holiday to get people to buy shit so we can demonstrate we love each other. Hahahahaha. Yeah. No. The goal of life is to love people for who they are, where they are, as they are, each and every day. Since that doesn’t happen all that often, and it REALLY doesn’t happen for individuals who are trans*, I’d like to talk about why. It’s great that Facebook just gave folks some useful gender options (and three sets of pronouns), but there are still serious issues (including violence). WHY IS THAT? What’s wrong with us as a culture that gender-nonconforming people freak us out? How dumb are we? Dumb. Why?
Last year, I was stopped in my tracks by an editorial written by a longtime trans* activist. In the piece, the person made this statement:
“To put it bluntly, there is nothing positive in the cisgender world about trans people. Not. One. Thing.” (note: “cisgender” means our brains/bodies agree about who we are)
That statement has echoed in my head since I read it. The writer claims that us “f*cking cispeople,” as the writer calls us, are hugely unkind and awful, and we ARE. Piers Morgan is a great example (good lord, what a jerk), and so is Katie Couric (have some sense!). These two very public individuals had a chance to lay down some positivity about individuals who are trans*, and they didn’t. What the hell?
In my world, obviously, that activist is flat-out wrong, but I don’t think I could get this person to believe me. That’s OK. This person has been hurt too much to hear me, and I respect that. In fact, some individuals who are trans* may read this post and tell me to STFU, I don’t get to talk about the trans* community. Fair enough. Yesterday on Facebook, in a discussion about the new gender labels, someone said, “I like that the cispeople can label themselves. Then I know who to watch out for.” Lots of likes. Understandable.
But I don’t want to be a representation of this activist’s statement. Do you? Each of us can do something to be sure “f*cking cispeople” don’t act so f*cking awful anymore. Need ideas? Ask about and use preferred pronouns. When trans* issues come up, let trans* individuals speak for themselves. Encourage trans* individuals to share and write their stories. Be an emotional and intellectual safe space for someone who’s trans*, and create physical safe space as often as you can. See an individual who’s trans* as an individual, with needs, loves, desires, fears and a life, not as a group, not as a surgery, not as genitals, and definitely NOT as a problem to be dealt with.
OK? So now you know. Get going. If you can do none of that stuff, at least get involved in making sure there are safe bathrooms for all. Everyone deserves a safe place to pee.
As a culture, we have to reduce the statistic revealed in 2010 (from a 2008 survey of 6540 trans* individuals, done by the National Center for Transgender Equality): of the survey participants, 41% of the of them had attempted suicide. As comparison, the rate of suicide attempts in the general population is something like 3% (can’t find an exact figure).
41%. What. The. Flip.
41%. That’s almost half the people in the survey.
41%. How can that possibly be true?? But it is.
This statistic gets personal for me: who of my friends who are trans* has attempted suicide? I want to know, because I want to love them harder, so they won’t think they’re alone ever again. My character, Gabe, did it too, and his friend Paige loved him harder so he wouldn’t feel alone. And guess what? People who are trans* don’t attempt suicide because they’re trans*. They do it because the world treats them like they’re not human.
This statistic is the best representation we have of how bullshit the world is to people who are gender-nonconforming. What option looks good to you when nobody’s supporting you, when your entire culture treats you like you’re lower than dogshit on someone’s shoe? Suicide must look like peace. And I can’t stand that idea.
So let’s be smarter, huh? Please? Today is a good day (every day is a good day) to think about how YOU could be a better friend to the trans* community. Love is for everyone, even those people you can’t fit into a gender box. So get busy. Don’t ask invasive questions, don’t say, “but you were born a man,” just shut up and love. That’s all. It’s not that hard. And we are better than this.