Thursday, 21 November 2013

Transgender Day of Remembrance

The last couple of weeks have been dominated by discussions of gender-based violence. So much so that most people I know are completely drained from many painful, triggering conversations. I'd like to change the subject to something less depressing, but yesterday was Transgender Day of Rememberance, so once again I've got gender-based violence on my mind.

According to TvT Research Project, 238 trans people were murdered between November 20 2012 and November 1 2013. This is a conservative estimate, since these are only the people we know about.

I can't help thinking that this list isn't even the half of it. Not all transphobic violence is as visible and overt as a gun to someone's head. The most pervasive kind of violence is the one that's so common it's invisible. Structural transphobia kills people too. There are people who died because they didn't have access to adequate healthcare. There are people who live in poverty because employers and social services discriminate against trans people. People who don't have anywhere to live because landlords discriminate against trans people. Kids whose families won't have anything to do with them because their families are transphobic. Then there are all the trans sex workers who have to deal with anti-sex worker violence and state control too. Trans women, especially trans women of colour, are disproportionately the ones most affected by structural transphobia.

It's not just structural transphobia that's the problem, it's also all those tiny moments in everyday life when cis people choose not to challenge transphobia. Just like rape is enabled by a rape culture that ridicules the victims and minimises their pain, transphobia is enabled by a gendernormative culture that ridicules anyone who transgresses gender norms and minimises violence against them. When you don't challenge transphobic jokes, or correct people who intentionally misgender trans folk, you're sending a message to transphobic cis people that you think their bigotry is ok. Even worse, you're also sending a message to trans people that you think bigotry against them is ok. We need to fight transphobia at a structural level, but it's equally important to fight it at a personal level.

In Hebrew when we speak of the dead we say עליהם השלום – peace unto them. There's nothing more we can for the 238 people who were murdered for being trans, aside from hope that they are at peace now. But we can fight for a world where no one is subjected to violence because of their gender identity. As Mother Jones would say 'pray for the dead, fight like hell for the living'.

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