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Brody Levesque

Views & Voices

Today is a day to honor humans lost to outright bigotry

Sunday, November 20, 2011
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Today is a day when all decent persons across the face of the planet should take a moment to pause and reflect on the terrible loss of promising lives rendered incomplete by a noxious and unjust pathology of lies, misconceptions and outright bigotry.

Today, Nov. 20, marks the International Transgender Day of Remembrance, an annual event to recognize the many people who are murdered because of their gender identity or expression.

As recently as a few days ago in Los Angeles, yet again acts of violence were directed at a transgendered person with the poor woman being shot dead in the streets of Hollywood. I could pause here and do a numbingly long roll call of the deceased, but instead I will honor them by calling on people to instead focus on stopping the violence.

In their new book, The Lives of Transgender People, authors Genny Beemyn and Sue Rankin found that acts of anti-transgender bias are commonplace and affect all gender nonconforming people, both directly and indirectly.

“Among the nearly 3,500 transgender individuals in the United States we surveyed, more than one fourth had experienced harassment or violence within the previous year; those most likely to be victimized were transgender people of color and those whose transgender identity was more visible.

“Appallingly, a majority of the people in our study indicated that they feared being injured or killed for being transmasculine, transfeminine, or gender-nonconforming.”

Violence, however, is merely the most extreme manifestation of how society expresses contempt toward individuals who do not conform to gender expectations. And these views pervade our lives and continue to harm transgender people, even in subtler forms.

This bears repeating: “Violence, however, is merely the most extreme manifestation of how society expresses contempt [...]”

Contempt? I still have trouble wrapping my head around that line of reasoning, these are human beings not some silly representation of evil incarnate.

Yet I am only too keenly aware that certain influences that are brought to bear on societal viewpoints are oft times most influenced by religious bigotry and misconceptions. When racism or xenophobia is added to the already volatile mixture then murder is a sadly predictable outcome.

I have dear friends who are transgendered and without exception, they all have told me that they instinctively knew that their gender identities and their “human shells” didn’t match from early ages.

That is rather simple to understand at least from my perspective as a human being, journalist, and student of humanity. Yet, I continue to hear from so-called christian leadership in various organs of that vast corporate christian network that transgendered people are defective, broken, disordered, and worse- mentally ill.

Sometimes, these awful labels end up being utilized by the very persons themselves by way of explanation or justification as if being a transgendered human was an affliction or a disease.

In a recent New York Times interview, one prominent transgendered man said, “There’s a gender in your brain and a gender in your body. For 99 percent of people, those things are in alignment. For transgender people, they’re mismatched. That’s all it is. It’s not complicated, it’s not a neurosis. It’s a mix-up. It’s a BIRTH DEFECT, like a cleft palate.”

Note the emphasis on birth defect please. A Trans activist took great offense at the phrase birth defect firing back with; “I do not have a birth defect. If you feel like you have a birth defect, fine. That’s how you feel. Go feel that. Do not put it onto me. Do not define me that way, and do not define other trans people that way unless they claim that label.”

According to authors Genny Beemyn and Sue Rankin,the cruelest form of discrimination young transgender people face is within their homes.

“Our research suggests that transgender people recognize themselves as being different from the gender assigned to them at birth when they are, on average, 5 years old. But most, including almost all the male-bodied children who recognized themselves to be girls, could not act on that understanding.

“If they dared reveal their feelings to their families, they were often forcefully told that they were their birth gender and punished for their gender-transgressive behavior. The families that were supportive frequently found that administrators at their child’s school knew little about transgender issues and were hostile toward the gender transition of a student.”

With the Internet providing ready access to information and resources, more and more children are realizing that they are transgender at a young age and seeking to transition before they go through the “wrong” puberty — but those who do often face harsh reactions from other family members, teachers, and parents.

The ultimate manifestation of discrimination is of course simply murder or the horrific beating of a transgendered person which in many cases leaves a permanent disfigurement if not physically then spiritually.

Beemyn and Rankin ask the obvious, “How, then, do we prevent these children from being rejected? How do we end the climate of hatred and fear that has claimed the lives of many transgender people?”

“We believe that K-12 schools and colleges must take the lead in recognizing and educating about gender diversity. They must implement nondiscrimination policies inclusive of gender identity and expression to protect transgender youth, and they must educate students about the full richness and diversity of gender.

“For if we are to no longer need the Day of Remembrance in the future, society has to move beyond the binary of two unchanging genders — and if we teach our children well, they can be the ones who will bring about that day.

I agree with Beemyn and Rankin’s assessment without reservation.

Before the European settlers invaded the vast open spaces of North America, importing their toxic brand of Christianity that, quite literally, destroyed numerous native Indian cultures, the tribes of those first nations recognized the value of those members that they referred to as “two spirits.”

It is sad that even today the legacy of the bias of their so-called religious leadership sees only their brand of peculiar theology as the “correct” way for society to live.

This toxic imperative makes life a misery for the transgender community and in particular, those who are also of a minority in the population. The first nations valued this diversity — those Europeans invaders and their descendants, and a majority of today’s societies, do not.

South Carolina
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