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    • #8154

      Transgender Flag

      This post was initially written to raise awareness of Transgender Day of Remembrance, observed each year on or near November 20th, however in light of the recent revision to the interpretation of the Equal Protection Clause by the Trump administration, I thought it appropriate to publish now.

      Even if you aren’t gay – even if you think you don’t know anyone who is gay – chances are that you have heard of Gay Pride. You might picture festivals, parades, people walking around in skimpy rainbow attire – you don’t have to have been to or celebrated Pride, but you still have some idea of what it is.

      In stark contrast to that, chances are that even if you are gay, you still may not have heard of Transgender Day of Remembrance. Or, even if you have, chances are you may still have very little idea what it is about.

      Begun in Massachusetts in 1999 as a response to the murder Rita Hester, a trans woman, Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) has evolved into an annual international memorial day for all those who are killed in anti-transgender hate crimes.

      I first attended a TDOR memorial service when I was living in Providence, Rhode Island some years ago. I knew it was a solemn occasion, but I wasn’t prepared for what I was to encounter at the service.

      The ceremony, held in a small Unitarian church in Providence, Rhode Island, was very simple. I don’t even remember if there was music playing. The lights were dimmed, and candles were involved. It reminded me of the Easter vigil service I’d attended as an altar server at my Catholic church growing up, except that we weren’t celebrating any sort of Resurrection at this ceremony. Rather, more like a Good Friday service, we were bearing witness to the brutal murder of innocent life.

      And the manner in which these people were killed – devastating. I watched as trans people my age got up and spoke of how their counterparts – would-be friends, companions, lovers, neighbors and family members – had their lives ended in the most gruesome of fashions. Stabbings. Decapitations and dismembering. Being set on fire. My mind couldn’t even process what I was hearing because the information was so unbelievable.

      As a queer person, I have some understanding of what it is like to be different – to be “outside the norm”. There are times when I feel anxious, hyper vigilant or threatened because of homophobia. But by and large, gay people (nowadays and in the region where I live) are understood. People get us – even if they disapprove of us. We are a minority, but we are gradually becoming less marginalized and more normalized.

      While there has been progress recently for transgender folk, they are still incredibly marginalized in our society. A report by the National Center for Transgender Equality shows that:

      Poverty: Transgender people are 4x as likely to have a household income of less than $10,000 per year

      Harassment: 90% of Transgender people experience harassment at work
      78% of Transgender people experience harassment at school
      15% of transgender students experience harassment so severe it leads them to leave school

      26% of Transgender people lose their jobs for being gender non-conforming on the job
      16% of Transgender people expressed having to work in the sex and drug trade to support themselves

      Assault: 35% of Transgender students experience physical assault
      12% of transgender students experience sexual assault

      19% have been refused housing for being transgender
      55% of those seeking refuge in homeless shelter are harassed
      29% of those seeking refuge in homeless shelter are denied access & turned away

      41% surveyed reported attempting suicide (vs. 1.6% in the general population)

      While this post may seem a bit late – after all, TDOR was over 3 months ago – I thought it would be relevant given the recent re-interpretation of the Equal Protection Clause by the Trump administration with regard to transgender students’ access to restrooms in public schools.

      The fact of the matter is, these policy changes have real implications for the children who are spending five out of seven days a week in these public gendered spaces. School is tough enough as a cisgender individual! When you suddenly add a marginalized gender identity to the mix, like with any marginalized identity, it simply adds another target to the child’s back. In some ways, children can be much more accepting than adults, however, as well all know, they can also be exceptionally cruel. But oftentimes they don’t know any better. It is up to the adults (who hold the power over the children) to set rules and guidelines which foster a culture of civility and respect.

      It is unfortunate that transgender children have been politicized in this way. I remember as a gay person the outrage I felt as I watched people debate my people and my rights in a public forum as though we were some sort of an abstract idea, without regard to our feelings or even our own input. Thus, in addition to the pain these children may already feel living as transgender kids in a rigidly binary cisgender world, they now know the added burden of being a political lightening rod.

      Some (with what may be the best of intentions) will say that it is best for all involved for the children to simply wait. They will say that these children ought to conceal their true identity because kids will be kids and if they share their authentic selves they are just asking for trouble. Others may believe that there is something wrong with these children, and if simply disciplined appropriately, they will learn that there are boys and there are girls, and boys act one way and girls act another, and if you transgress there ought to be consequences. Unfortunately this does not jive with current scientific recommendation on how to support transgender children. The American Psychological Association (APA) clearly states that “ It is not helpful to force the child to act in a more gender-conforming way”.

      As mental health advocates, we need to actively engage in society, from the local community all the way up to the federal (and I would say international) level, to ensure that all people are treated with the dignity and respect which they deserve. Transgender people are at particular risk for preventable mental illness (not to mention physical harm). We need to do everything we can to prevent both these negative outcomes.

    • #8157
      Kevin A.

      True! Couldn’t agree more. The transgender population is one of the most vulnerable groups that is affected by mental health issues.

      I personally think that this group deserves far more attention at the moment. The fact that President Trump is rolling back bathroom rights for kids is disheartening to the point where his lack of judgment and insensitivity could cost more lives. Every negative legislation against these people feeds into greater hate, greater transphobia and greater tragedies.

      “It is unfortunate that transgender children have been politicized in this way.” You are very right and thanks for being so compassionate, its unfortunate and its WRONG!

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