It Is Not Okay
The last couple months of the year are difficult for many people. Seasonal Affective Disorder kicks in for those unlucky enough to deal with it. Family gatherings become somewhat of a theme, often causing stress in claustrophobic situations, or reminding those of us separated from our families for whatever reason of what we're missing. This time of year so classically painted as cheerful can be particularly dark for a large portion of us.
Thanksgiving is what most people, at least within the United States, associate with November. Families across the country gathering for their respective feasts, celebrating together each with their own traditions. However, the last couple of years, I've found myself far too distracted in the month of November to even remember that Thanksgiving exists.
Today, November 20th, is the Transgender Day of Remembrance. Today I look back on the previous year and realize I've lost no less than 265 siblings to violence caused by people's hatred and fear. Today, I look over a list spanning over 70 pages roughly outlining the known information of each and every one of those crimes, and see the trend of overkill and sexual violence. Today, I remember that the victims aren't just those murdered, but so many more, driven to hurt themselves because of the way society has treated them. Today I remember it could have been me or any number of close friends, and that things like passing aren't really about personal satisfaction, they're about survival.
I am no stranger to being bullied, I had been the target of one school boy or another since the third grade while in public school. I remember being physically assaulted by the boys on the playground, twelve or fourteen on one quite often. I had very few friends. The ones I had were picked on and sometimes also attacked for their choice to associate with me. The girls all said I had "cooties" and screeched if I got within a few feet of them. This was just in elementary school, within a group of eight year olds, and I was being "othered," made somehow different in their minds in a way that made it okay to pick on me, to isolate me, and to hurt me.
In middle and high school, the bullying continued, and so did the othering. It was around then that I first was called gay, and that I was made fun of for a perceived femininity. These things were so different, so abnormal, so feared that it was easy to look at someone associated with them as less than human. It made it easy to hurt me, psychologically or physically.
Now I'm nearly 23 years of age. The othering hasn't stopped, and neither has the bullying, the stakes have just gotten larger. It's othering on a national and often a global scale. It's the constant bombard from the mainstream media, from politicians and community leaders telling the general public that I'm different, that I don't deserve rights or guarantees to safety. That I'm an abomination and that my mere existence goes against some deity's will, or against some "natural order." It's othering that tells people on a global level that I'm less than human, that it's okay to hurt me, that it's okay to kill me.
It is not okay. It's not okay to hurt me. It wasn't okay to hurt any of the people who were named on that list, it wasn't okay to hurt the many who were not, who we didn't even know about. It isn't okay to drive so many of us year after year to suicide.
It is not okay.
We need to stop. To stop the violence, the bullying, the othering. To stop the hatred and the fear. Being transgender is not a protected status in so many parts of the world, including most of the United States. You can be fired from your job, can be excluded from public restrooms, and crimes committed against transgender individuals are not considered hate crimes. Our only media representation is the punch line of a cruel joke. When there are stories about us in the news, journalists don't even bother to learn and use the correct pronouns, using the wrong ones, jumping back and forth, or just calling us "it."
The misconceptions need to be stopped. People need to be educated and told why it isn't okay to other. We need to stand up when we hear it happening, whether explicitly through a nasty comment, or subtly through a joke someone might honestly believe does no harm, and say "no, that's not okay." We need to tell our politicians, that trans* people are in fact people, and should be afforded rights and protections. We need to tell the world it is not okay.
By Trinity Aodh, Secular Woman Advisory Council