transgender day of REMEMBRANCE 2017
Content warning – this article contains mentions of suicide, murder and violence against trans people.
When I was asked to write about Transgender Day of Remembrance, I had no idea where to begin.
It is more important now than ever before, to not only remember those who we have lost, but also to emphasise how far the fight for equality is from being won. Every year, I see the same statistics, facts and figures on Facebook, that serve as a constant reminder that being trans and death often go hand in hand.
Transgender Day of Remembrance is a day close to my heart as I am part of the 48% of trans people under 25 who have attempted suicide.
During my first year of university, alone in my room, I took an overdose that would have killed me if my friends hadn’t intervened. At the time, my transition had come to a standstill. I was facing the NHS standard waiting time of 2 years for an initial consultation.
I have never experienced isolation quite like it.
My family and I weren’t on the best of terms and I felt that, although I lived in one of the most inclusive cities in the UK, the LGB community just didn’t get it.
Although my personal circumstances have improved, the reality for many trans people is that life doesn’t always get better at the start of the journey. It certainly can’t change without the support of the whole community.
But trans suicide is not the only issue that we as a community face. The origin of Transgender Day of Remembrance stems from the horrific murder of Rita Hester, a trans woman of colour and activist. Rita was stabbed 20 times and despite being rushed to hospital, she died from a cardiac arrest moments after being admitted. Nearly 20 years after her death in 1998, her killer is still at large.
At the Stonewall riots in 1969, trans women of colour were the first to throw bricks, leading the protest that would give birth to the modern pride movement. Yet, trans women of colour face the greatest threat within our community. GLAAD reports that out of the violence reported against LGBT+ people, trans women of colour have account for 55% of those reports. In my eyes, we as a community need to start giving back and standing up for the very people who started our march to equality.
We must all understand: the reality of the situation is that trans people are suffering. Whether it’s in the workplace, at home or in school, trans people are suffering. There is a lack of awareness within the LGBTQ+ community and the wider society which is causing needless friction every single day. There aren’t many realistic statistics about the violence that trans people suffer, as these crimes often go unreported. They are also misreported, with the victims trans identity disregarded. In the USA, 2017 has been reported as the ‘deadliest year for transgender people’.
So how do we begin to help the situation? Tackling transphobia is a huge obstacle, particularly when the rest of the world doesn’t seem to be on the same page. But, as in the ‘It Gets Better’ campaign, it will take the support of many to overcome the oppression trans people face.
There are many ways to be a good ally to the trans community. Calling out transphobia is the first and arguably most important step. Transphobia is rooted in the same ignorance as homophobia. Usually it comes from those who have a lack of understanding about what it means to be trans. Every day on Facebook, I see numerous articles about trans people, and if you take a look through the comments, you don’t have to look too far before you find something transphobic. As a trans person with ‘passing privilege’ (people see me as a cisgender male on first appearance), I often hear transphobic remarks. They have become so normalised that until questioned the person making them doesn’t always realise that they are being transphobic. Furthermore, whether these remarks come from cisgender heterosexual individuals or the LGB community, it doesn’t matter - it’s still transphobic.
Being a good ally means speaking up if you see these kind of comments or hear transphobia. It means correcting someone if they’re being transphobic, in the same way you’d correct someone’s homophobia or racism.
The second step is to support trans campaigns. Trans people have a long way to go before they can reach true equality in our society. Currently, trans issues are being discussed, but they’re mainly discussed within the trans community itself rather than the wider LGB community. In order to gain recognition of trans issues, it falls to the wider LGB community to support us and our issues. This can be done by attending protests or taking an active role in campaigning. There are many ways to get involved - just ask.
There are also ways to help from home, including donating to trans charities such as Action For Trans Health, who do many amazing things for trans people trying to access healthcare. Even sharing articles and petitions on social media regarding trans issues or getting into discussions about the struggles that trans people face help spread the word.
As an ally, it is impossible to know everything about trans life. However, listening to individuals about their experiences or reading trans experiences online is a great way to learn more about trans people (there are some incredible YouTubers out there).
To make somewhere more inclusive, the best place to start is by not making assumptions, whether you think someone is trans, what their pronouns they prefer or if they’re okay discussing being trans. Normalise pronoun rounds to make sure everyone in a group has the chance to introduce themselves and what their pronouns are. This makes sure that everyone’s pronouns are known and normalises their choice, whilst also reducing the risk of exposing someone’s trans identity.
Supporting your transgender friends and the trans people in your life is the easiest way to be a good ally. This can is as easy as checking in occasionally and generally being a good friend. Although you might not always understand their struggles and issues, it means a lot to know that you have friends who are supporting you. For me, this was at the beginning of my transition before hormones when my male friends would come to the bathroom with me. A lot of the time, a little support goes a long way.
If you’re ever unsure of how best to support a trans person, the best thing you can do is ask and do your research. We are a long way from equality, but hopefully one day, articles like this won’t need to be written. It’s time that as a community, we put our differences and lack of knowledge behind us and work together to achieve the equality we all deserve. Just as the people at Stonewall took huge steps for LGB liberation, it is our turn as a united queer community to at last stand together.