Posted by: Shula Asher Silberstein | 13 June 2010

Setting the Record Straight (So to Speak…)

Gavri’el and I are eating sandwiches for supper while surfing the Internet and thinking about taking naps. We got up earlier than usual in order to go to our Doctor Who fan group so we’re kinda tired… we usually stay up until 5 or 6 in the morning and sleep until 3 (or at least Gavi does; during the week I get up earlier because I’m trying to set a somewhat “normal” work schedule for myself.)

It’s peaceful, so peaceful that ordinarily I wouldn’t even include these details in a blog. I am tonight, however, to make a point.

Here we are, sitting in our dining room eating, like normal people who just happen to be expressing themselves as a gender other than the ones they were born into.  We did the same thing out in public earlier today. I wore two bras to make my chest flat and Gavi wore a padded bra, a yellow blouse, women’s jeans, and heels. And nothing happened except we had a good time with friends.

I get sick of reading news reports about Transgender people. Every time a Transgender person is murdered or attacked (which is, unfortunately, more often than it ought to be), all the LGBT news outlets rush to report it. Every time a Transgender person does something idiotic–like the two people recently who exposed their new breasts at a beach–again, it makes the news. The rest of the time, you never hear the word “transgender”. We fade into the background of the LGBT community, although some people may pity us because it is just so “dangerous” for us to be out.

I don’t mean to minimize the statistics. According to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), about 1 out of every 1,000 homicides is related to someone’s Transgender status*. This is  about .1% of all homicides, but is still disturbing, as nobody should have to feel as if they or their loved ones are at risk for being murdered because of who they are. In addition, the HRC points out that many more hate crimes against Transgender persons may go unreported because local police are perceived as indifferent or hostile to the Transgender community, so the victims or their families don’t bother to ask for help.

However, it is certainly not every Transgender person.

I find the “common wisdom” that being out as a Transgender person is dangerous to be more disturbing than the Transgender murder rate itself. It encourages Transgender people–especially Transgender youth who are trying to come to terms with who they are–to be afraid. It encourages us to stay hidden in the closet, to stay depressed about the fact that we “can’t” be who we are, to stay isolated and alone. It encourages some of us to kill ourselves because we can’t live with the pain of having to hide all the time or can’t make ourselves be like everyone else. (The LGBT community suffers from an epidemic suicide problem; 1 out of 3 suicides is LGBT-related**. How many of those are Transgender persons that no-one knew to be Transgender?)

There are some people in the Transgender community, and in the LGBT community at large, that view Transgender issues as too different from other non-heterosexual issues. It’s true that Transgenderism is about gender identity, not sexual orientation (a Transgender person can be of any sexual orientation when in hir preferred gender). However, it is NOT true that the LGB community wants visibility and we want to stay in the closet. And if that IS true for the majority of Transgender persons…it’s time for us to embrace who we are and stop being afraid.

Supposedly only 1% of the population is Transgender. But perhaps the statistic is more like, 1% of the population is OPENLY Transgender. It is hard to find people to date or even to be friends with when everyone is afraid and thinks Gavi and I should be too.

That doesn’t mean that things never happen that shouldn’t happen. There are people in the world who don’t understand or don’t like Transgender people. A few weeks ago, a kid in a restaurant said about Gavi, “OMG…she…I mean he…is going into the WOMEN’S bathroom.” Those kinds of comments CAN lead to violence sometimes, though fortunately in our case it did not. (A friend drove us down the block to our car just in case.) But even so, that is not a reason not to be out at all.

If all of us who are Transgender are willing to express who we are, if we are willing to dress how we want and go out in public how we want… if we use the bathroom we feel comfortable using… then Transgender people will no longer appear so different from the rest of humanity. There will just be too many of us.

Of course everyone should use common sense and intuition…don’t go to places that are known for anti-Transgender violence, don’t purposely flaunt your gender non-comformity in front of a bunch of drunk ex-Ku Klux Klan members, don’t walk alone on dark streets at 3 AM, etc. But it’s time, really time, for us to stop being so afraid.

If we ever want things to change, we need to make ourselves an unstoppable force. I’ve never yet heard of anyone who can do that from the closet.

* See http://www.hrc.org/issues/1508.htm

**  See http://www.soulforce.org/article/653

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Responses

  1. Awesome!!! THANK YOU for saying that.

  2. Hi Steph! Good to see you writing, and with such honesty and courage. Hugs to you!

    Lisa


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