It has been a cruel fate to be born feeling “trapped in the wrong body since birth.” Society's reactions can leave someone struggling with their gender identity, often at a young age, feeling like a pariah. You can find many compelling personal stories of the difficult years it took before many summoned the courage to embrace their true selves, and begin to transition to the gender they had always known they were. A courageous decision in itself, often made terrifying by the likely rejection of family, friends, co-workers, and society at large.
We have come a long way since US Army vet and hero Christine Jorgensen underwent a very visible and public gender change in the 1950s, and brought widespread media attention to Trans issues. The LGBTQ Civil Rights movement has finally embraced the marginalized Transgender cause, with changes to civil rights, equal employment opportunity, healthcare reform, and hate crimes legislation all being tirelessly fought for. Along with some Transgender heroes and celebrities frequently in the media, and less irrational fear within society, it is an exciting and hopeful time to be sure.
But all signs point to a people suffering immensely. Discrimination (housing, healthcare, employment, schools, public facilities), physical abuse, homelessness, incarceration, violence, humiliation, and family and societal rejection, have led to horrific suicide attempt rates. It is estimated that there are between 1 - 1.4 million who identify as Transgender in the US, and they are far more likely to attempt suicide than the average person – leading to an incomprehensible 41% attempted suicide rate(1).
As some turn to a mental health professional for help, too many professionals have long believed that a desire to transition is a result of a mental illness, and the American Psychiatric Association, as recently as its DSM-IV manual, had shamefully considered this a gender identity “disorder.” Many mental health professionals believe in conversion therapy, which creates further internalized oppression and shame.
A society should do everything it can to create the conditions within every single person for self-love – for without it, one can never truly love thy neighbor. To discourage the unity of mind and body within someone, based on irrational fears and a closed heart, will not only eliminate any chance for their self-love, but will create a painful life of torment from within. No one deserves that for any reason.
To our Transgender friends: You were beautiful as you were. You are beautiful as you are.
We Are: You.
Heartfelt congratulations to Lisa Middleton (1st openly Trans elected City Council member in CA, in Palm Springs), Andrea Jenkins (1st openly transgender black woman elected to public office in the country, Minneapolis), Phillipe Cunningham (also Minneapolis), and Danica Roem (Virginia) for deservedly earning the support of your community in your recent elections.
(1)Trans Lifeline, translifeline.org
The nation's first suicide hotline for, and by, Transgender people, based in San Francisco. The incidence of suicide attempts among Trans people is a truly horrific number, reportedly more than 40%, which is beyond words. Thankfully, at Trans Lifeline, they are not. There is help, and hope.
Transgender Law Center, transgenderlawcenter.org
The Oakland based Transgender Law Center is a forceful and effective advocate for Trans Civil Rights in every sense of the word. Beyond their critical legal work, they are also dedicated to the important and difficult work of building a movement to support all of their efforts.