Trigger Warning: Violence, assault, murder, suicide, racism, trans*phobia, transmisogyny
Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) is not without its issues. In fact, TDoR has some pretty big issues. Most of the murders of trans* people are trans women and trans feminine people of color, however, there seems to be a lack of discussion on race and how it impacts the lives of these women. There is no doubt this is not just an issue in theory, but in practice. While there have been women of color speakers at the TDoR events I have been to, they are always run by white trans* people. Clearly the event needs to be broadened and run by trans women of color.
There is another aspect that TDoR ignores. While their website chronicles the reported murders of trans* people across the world at the hands of others. This means that a large number of trans* murders are still undocumented as well due to incorrect reporting, unknown identity, undiscovered bodies, and so on. However, it does not report on the murders at the hands of the trans* people themselves. Trans* people murdered by the idea that society does not want them. Trans* people murdered by the idea that they are not worthy of life. Trans* people murdered by the fact they must face every day in a world that wishes them dead.
Suicide is a rampant issue in the trans* community. Over half of trans* people have attempted suicide. Mental health problems run rampant, especially in those who have faced rejection by their family. Trans* people face high rates of homelessness and joblessness; this is especially high in trans women of color. Access to hormones, surgery, and medical care is extremely difficult for many people and is made more difficult by the rampant issues when it comes to finding a job to pay for these things. It is no wonder that trans* people face disproportionate rates of suicide attempts.
The sad reality is though, we cannot document all the people we have lost who are trans* to societal murder. We can list the news reports, but we cannot exactly list all of those we have lost to their own hands due to a society who deems them unworthy of existence. We will never know the trans women who was unable to come out of the closet before her life was taken. We will never know the genderqueer who saw their struggle to access basic care as too much. We will never know the trans man who hid himself away. We will never know these faces because they were taken from us before they could bloom.
We should add alongside those who have been murdered, those who have been murdered by their own hands. All of us know someone or have heard a story of someone who took their lives. Suicide touches us in the community personally. It’s tendrils have spread their icy fingers among us all too much. We should not be ashamed to speak of this societal murder. We should not be afraid to discuss the oppression we face, and how different aspects of it affect our lives (such as race). We should not be ashamed to discuss our histories, especially how society has almost pushed us to take our own lives.
In fact, we need to be louder about it. Suicide is such a prevalent issue, why is it never spoken of? Why do we not remember our lost trans* friends and family who have felt the only way to escape this world and be free to be themselves is to take their own lives? Why do we not discuss how society deems us unworthy of life and how we take it to heart? Why is this not something that is discussed, not now and not ever? We are doing those of us a disservice by refusing to acknowledge and to talk about this. We are doing those of us who are still here and those of us who are struggling to wake up in the morning a disservice. In fact, our silence on this issue may even be killing us.
However, there has always been the criticism that TDoR focuses too much on the horrors of the world that trans* people face. By bringing in those of us society has forced the hand of, we can almost work on more problems in a way. We can celebrate those of us who are still here, remembering those of us who were taken from us, and also provide support for those of us who are struggling. Does this tokenize their deaths in a way? Possibly. However, I do not feel that anyone would want their death to be in vain. We should not focus on them as an example, but as a legacy. We understand the world is dark. We understand the world is hard. We understand what it’s like. However, we’re here for you. We gather as a community for each other. We build bonds. Create bridges.
We must no longer be silent about the epidemic facing our community. We must acknowledge that the trans* people we have lost to suicide have also been murdered by society. These people have been murdered by the very same cissexism and trans*phobia that murders those on the TDoR list. They have been murdered by society and the very idea that their lives of disposable and unworthy. They have been murdered by the society that believes them to be inauthentic and mentally ill. They have been murdered by a society that demands they do not even exist. We must remember our lost trans* friends and family. We must not let their lives be without remembering. We must remind that there those of us who have survived and continue to survive, that life and happiness are possible as a trans* person. Life and happiness while trans* is a reality, not an illusion.
Please note: I do not believe that those who have committed suicide are weak. It is a very real solution to some people who see no other reason or support to live. However, I believe every life has a reason and purpose. If you are struggling with suicide, please call the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386. They are a queer 24/7 suicide hotline who can help.