In many countries across the globe, the second week of November is Transgender Awareness Week, followed immediately, on November 20, by Transgender Remembrance Day.
The distinction between the two is as telling as it is devastating: on the one hand, we have a celebration of the increasing visibility and assimilation of one of society’s most miraculous and brilliant facets, while on the other, we have the most recent roll call of transgender people who have been murdered by gender-biased criminals.
This year, the Transgender Awareness Week celebration is better-publicized and more far-flung than it has ever been, encompassing a full range of international stories and projects, sharing the intimately personal, penetrating the worlds of politics, protest, and journalism, and inspiring new works of classical art and mainstream entertainment.
In the U.S.:
-An 18-year-old Ohio college student goes viral online with a series of selfies, documenting 18 months of Hormonal Replacement Therapy, tracing the transition from a depressed, troubled, young man, to a glowing, peaceful, young woman, in her first love relationship;
-A transgender candidate for The Virginia House of Delegates wins the election, defeating the very man who proposed the infamous bathroom bill;
-At NYC’s Stonewall National Monument, the Transgender Flag is raised on American municipal property for the first time, and flies alongside both the Rainbow Flag and the American Flag;
-The second annual Transgress Fest in Santa Ana, California, is highlighted by newly-composed songs of protest, hearkening back to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and ’60s;
-Time.com publishes an article on cultural sexism as seen through the eyes of transgender men;
-The Des Moines Metro Opera opens its 46th season with the local premiere of “As One,” a chamber opera for one male and one female singer, billed as a “transgender story, told in song” and produced in co-operation with One Iowa and Transformations Iowa, the two most important LGBTQ service organizations in the state; and
-On the FX channel, Ryan Murphy’s “Pose” makes its debut, featuring more transgender series regulars than any American television show in history, at the same time that his Half Foundation provides on-set internships to mentor aspiring young transgender directors.
All of this, and more not listed, is very brilliant: joyous, exhilarating, and glamorous, to be sure.
The Transgender Day of Remembrance, however, is another side of the coin: unglamorous, misunderstood, clouded by grief, shame, and outrage, it sheds light on what is criminal and unjustifiable.
As part of its November transgender observance, the Human Rights Campaign has published the most recent hate crime statistics from the FBI:
-Of 6121 hate crimes reported in 2016, 1076 were based on sexual orientation, and 124 on gender identity; and
-Of the 102 transgender murders in the past five years, an all-time high of 25—fully 25% --have occurred in the first months of 2017.
Let that sink in.
According to the National Coalition of Anti Violence Programs, many death certificates are mis-gendered, making it very likely that this number is quite a low estimate.
In the months following the most recent presidential election, HRC conducted youth surveys, with the following results: 70% of the respondents had experienced and/or witnessed bullying, while 50% were choosing to hide their identity. Clearly, the current administration’s policies are directly and indirectly having an adverse effect upon equal rights for all gender-nonconforming people. Therefore, the efforts of local organizations and private individuals become more important than ever, and grass-roots support is a matter of social conscience.
There is a great deal happening in the New York City area, for anyone who wishes to participate.
A partial list includes:
-Hetrick-Martin Institute (www.hmi.org) in NYC and Newark, New Jersey, which continues to serve marginalized and endangered LGBTQ youth ages 13-24 by offering advocacy and programming to members from over 300 zip codes, as well as education through the Harvey Milk School and informal seminar meetings;
-the Ali Forney Center (www.aliforneycenter.org) in NYC provides LGBTQ youth protection from homelessness, assisting nearly 1400 youths per year, and providing training to acquire the skills needed to live independently; and
-On Long Island, the Transvisible Project (Facebook Page: The Rainbow Warrior) is educating the general public while empowering young transgender people. Recording their stories with video interviews and photographic portraits which describe the specifics of what their lives are like will soon result in a documentary film.
It is an eternal verity that education is the best remedy for ignorance, and the fear and hatred it inspires.
“The transgender community is endangered,” or some variant thereof, is one of the most frequently seen phrases in social media when transgender people are the subject. There is no question about the reality of that danger. This writer, however, is mystified and offended by current usage, and refuses to refer to transgender people as a “community.”
They are each of them individuals, and citizens like you and I, fully equal in every regard. It is our civic responsibility to change the public perception of transgender people as somehow separate, to pick up the slack as long as necessary to encourage them, applaud them, protect them, and bring the number of murders down to zero.
I have green eyes: does that make me part of some exclusive “green-eyed community?” Maybe it does, but only as a joke. Unlike my green-eyed club, however, the situation facing transgender people is no joke, not some kind of club, certainly no laughing matter, and—simply—wrong. It’s up to all of us to make it right.