Today is the 9th Annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day set aside to honor those killed because of anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. To learn more about today and why it was created, visit Remembering Your Dead.
Someone once explained being transgender to me this way: “Imagine waking up tomorrow, feeling exactly the way you do today, except you have a penis.” And I did try to imagine that: all of my experiences, my convictions and values and beliefs, are all tied up in my being ‘woman.’ I identify with the label socially, emotionally, politically, physically. So to wake up tomorrow and have all of the same experiences, convictions, values, beliefs, perceptions – to feel entirely like ‘woman,’ but to look down and see a very visible sign that says ‘man’ – the sense of wrongness that I can only imagine here is unsettling. So what must it be like to wake up every day and feel that all of the time – for real?
I don’t understand how our culture reached a point of such polarization in terms of gender. Behaviors and traits are considered to be distinctly masculine or feminine (it’s manly to be tough and stoic, it’s girly to cry; it’s manly to nail lots of chicks but it’s slutty if girls do that; men are rough and women are graceful). Certain behaviors are rewarded in one gender (men are expected to be uncompromising, determined) and punished in another (women get called “bitches” for displaying the same traits). This assumes, of course, that the issue of gender is only two-pronged – one for men and one for women. It leaves little room for a “gray area,” for anyone trying to figure out what it means to possess qualities from both sides, or for anyone realizing they belong somewhere other than where they are. For anyone different.
Sadly, “different” also tends to mean “scary,” “threatening,” “unnatural,” and “wrong.” “Different” gender roles, gender identities, present a challenge to the norm, to what we as a culture have accepted for so long. Think about it: our society has taught us how to behave. Our parents, our teachers, the television, radio, magazines, video games, internet, advertisements – all forms of communication have reinforced specific values and behaviors, specific gender associations. When presented with something that challenges the structure we’ve been taught to support, the initial reaction is fear – of appearing to accept something outside the structure, of the structure itself being weak or wrong. And unexamined fear often turns quickly into anger – partly because fear itself is uncomfortable, and partly, I would say, because fear is an emotion that has been deemed entirely unacceptable by society. And where does anger often go? Violence.
And so we have a need for days like today, days where we honor people who have been victims of violence, of anger, of fear.
Need someone to honor? Here’s a list – an all too long one.
But don’t let today be about remembering just the people who are no longer here. Remember the people who live alongside you every day, in fear of the anger and fear of others.