This Is Not The Sad Trans Story You Are Looking For | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

This Is Not The Sad Trans Story You Are Looking For

Comment Writer Finn Humphris reflects on Transgender Remembrance Day

20th November, as it has been recognised every year since 1999, marked Transgender Day of Remembrance. Typically, since the first candlelight vigil in San Francisco 18 years ago, the day is kept with memorial observations and the naming of the dead. In scenes not dissimilar to my memory of Remembrance day ‘Reading of the Roll’ ceremonies, the years’ names are often read aloud at vigils.

We name our dead like we are at war. Sometimes it can only seem we are exactly that. But this isn’t a story about trans sadness.

The reported number of 325 (Transgender Europe, GLAAD) deaths is the highest in years

This year, at the university’s LGBTQ+ Association’s vigil, it was decided that the list would not be read aloud. At 325 names long, in the lightly spitting rain and cold, an entirely reasonable choice. Reading over a printed copy of said list it was impossible not to be struck by the fact there were simply too many people, that is, trans and gender non-conforming people reported as murdered since 20th November 2016, to read. The largest proportion, as it is any year, belongs to trans women of colour.

The reported number of 325 (Transgender Europe, GLAAD) deaths is the highest in years. This number, of course, is likely much lower than the true figure. Many deaths of trans and gender non-conforming people go unreported and their murders are not attributed to hate crime. Year on year, trans people are buried by unsupporting families, true, chosen names forgotten and forced in a final insulting display into the birth names and incorrect assignments they fought in life. Moreover, the figure does not include the number of people lost to suicide, which remains at a disproportionately high rate among lgbtq, and particularly trans people. Stonewall reports around 40% of trans youths have attempted suicide, with transphobic and homophobic bullying and violence, along with unsupportive family environments greatly increasing this likelihood. Anecdotally, almost every trans person seems to have story, if not a direct experience, or loss of a loved one. But this isn’t a story about trans sadness.

Around 40% of trans youths have attempted suicide, with transphobic and homophobic bullying and violence, along with unsupportive family environments greatly increasing this likelihood

Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) is, at the very least on a personal level, a reminder of the unity (despite other differences) of the trans community. Unlike Visibility and Awareness events, Remembrance is largely an inwardly concerned thing. Visibility in a cis-normative world is always important, of course, but ultimately it’s necessity is based on cis perception. Trans people must be visible to prove to cis people the simple facts of our existence and humanity. Our images, our bodies, our emotions, all are made public property. Remembrance Day is not about this. It is about our sadness, our mourning and, indeed, our anger. The support of cis allies is welcome, but the consumption of trans emotions by a cis audience is easily packed into the box of ‘ally-hood’.

Yes, we are sad. Yes, we are angry. But our emotions are not for your consumption as cis people

Media presentation of trans and gender non-conforming people frequently holds up our suffering as central to our existence. The perception of trans people intermingles so much with this is difficult to publicly express our emotions without fearing feeding the trope of trans ‘misery porn’. Remembrance Day is about community support and shared emotion between trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming people.

It is a fact that trans people are dying. They are being killed either directly by transphobic violence, or as the ongoing result of systemic discrimination. The trans community and our allies continue campaigns to improve this. The urgency of this is only exemplified by the yearly lists of lost members of the community, which only grow in length.

Simply put: Yes, we are sad. Yes, we are angry. But our emotions are not for your consumption as cis people. The trans community mourns our dead and asks you to let at least our mourning be our own.

Article by Finn Humphris



Published

6th December 2017 at 9:00 am



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