Monday, July 4, 2011

Freedom and Acceptance, a Rant

"We are a family that should stand together as one,
Helping each other instead of just wasting time;
Now is the moment to reach out to someone, it's all up to you,
When everyone's sharing their hope, then love will win through;
Everybody's free to feel good,
Everybody's free to feel good." 
-- Rozalla, Everybody's Free

Forgive my need to rant. I just found out that a trans acquaintance committed suicide over the weekend. =(

Sadly, this kind of thing is not uncommon. I hear about murders and suicides of trans people all the time, and it horrifies me. Though I didn't know them well, the fact that I knew them at all makes it hit home that much harder. I hope they're at peace.

I won't pretend to speak for this person, and there may have been any number of difficult things going on in their life which caused this. But I do know that all-too-often the fear and pain of rejection is what drives many of our community members to take their own lives. Nobody deserves to feel so out of place in this world that they're forced to leave it.

As a very open trans person, I often come out to new people during the first few times I meet them (so long as I feel relatively safe). I do this mainly because I'm a control freak. If I tell everyone, I'm not left to wonder "who knows?", and it's that much more difficult to use the information against me.

In these situations, I nearly always hear "Oh wow, I would have never guessed!" or "When I met you, I couldn't tell at all." These sayings are a well-known cliche among the trans community, and they're sometimes even considered rude or insulting. After all, what makes anyone feel that they should be able to tell? And is being able to tell somehow bad?

Personally, I usually take it as a compliment and try to smile, mainly because the people saying these things probably have good intentions, and probably aren't thinking about the deeper implications. But I also smile because these phrases are a guilty pleasure for me. Passing does provide privilege, and I am constantly aware of it. When I walk down the street, or in to a public establishment, or meet new people without strange looks or harassment. Much as I hate it, the words "I never knew" say to me, "Nobody knows. You are safe."

But passing as one gender or the other should not be an indicator of acceptance. Further, passing should not be a measure of personal safety and freedom.

Many people put off expressing their true selves for years, decades, or even their entire life, because they are afraid. Afraid of the reaction, of how they'll be treated. Before I even came out to Erin, I weighed the very heavy possibilities. Is it worth the risk of rejection to be myself? Is it worth losing any number of my friends and family, my job, or even Erin? Is it worth becoming one of the worst treated minorities in the country? We hope for the best, but we must plan for the worst. With being true to myself on one side of the scale, and possible social rejection in every form on the other, it was the most difficult decision I've ever made.

Acceptance changes lives, and I feel so extremely fortunate, grateful (and sometimes guilty), that I am as loved and accepted as I am by so many people. Scary as it has been, being appreciated as myself has kept me from thinking about suicide for a very long time. Whenever I feel strong enough, I try to use this acceptance as a platform to show others that we exist, and that we only want what everyone else wants.

Still, I am usually more open about being a lesbian than I am about being trans. Though both identities leave Erin and me prone to all sorts of discrimination, the public's treatment and understanding of trans people is still leagues behind. =/

I'm ever so thankful to live in a country that lets me choose what to do with my own body, and in a time when the world is slowly coming around. But freedom isn't just about the law, who gets to serve in the military, who gets to marry, and who is theoretically protected from discrimination (though these are very important steps along the path). It's also about the personal freedom to be ourselves; to express our thoughts, feelings, and personalities the way we'd like without fear of retribution; to love and be loved; to not be shunned or hated for simply living the only way we know how.

We've come a long way, and it's an exciting time to be alive, but we still have a long way to go. And none of us will ever be truly free until we all are.


  1. I'm so sorry to hear about the suicide. I hope if you ever need to talk or are not strong, I am always here. I also feel that equal rights applies to everyone, we are all human and deseve to be treated as such. I am always willing to champion that. Nothing makes me sadder than people causing eachother harm and the more ignorance we can stamp out together the better this world will be.

  2. Thank you for so articulately sharing your thoughts on this matter. I feel much the same and hate that it took a community member's suicide to bring us together and remind us of how far we have to go.