Monday, November 19, 2007

November 20th: what I remember.

Tuesday the 20th is the Transgender day of Remembrance. The problem is that most people don’t have someone to remember. So here is what I wish people would remember; that in the western world, no other group has a higher murder rate than transgender individuals. And t-women usually aren’t murdered, they are lynched. We don’t like to think that lynching goes on in Canada, the USA, and the UK but it does. You could put up a scaffold in front of the Capitol, and hang a transitioning woman on it and tell the police, “I had a sex with………it, I didn’t know what I was doing” and you have a 50% chance of getting off, and at least some sort of reduced sentence. In the movie Licensed to Kill, Arthur Dong’s documentary about men who kill homosexuals, in the extras there is an interview with a man who killed a t-woman. He used the word “it” to refer to this human being he had killed through the entire interview. He had killed her in a particular brutal way. He was the only person in the entire documentary who hadn’t been sent to jail; he was in a mental asylum and would soon be released.

I guess what first drew me to note the deaths of, in particular, t-women was the type of prolonged and exaggerated deaths. These deaths, so brutal to almost seem out of some ancient and foreign war would usually result with a jury of 12 assumed sane individuals saying “Well, since they didn’t say they were transgender, I guess stabbing them over 60 times is kinda reasonable.” I remember, about four years ago, reading about a t-woman who had been tortured with a knife for over two days, stabbed repeatedly, before being set on fire while alive. I remember it distinctly because it was in one of the states which don’t collect hate crime stats, like Alabama for instance (I actually believe it was Alabama). And they had a quote from the local sheriff saying, “We’re not investing this as a hate crime.” Geee, tortured and set on fire, yeah, I’m not seeing any hatred there. Then there was the young teen in New York who was chased for several blocks before falling down; the man who had just had sex with her stood over her, fired into the body, the gun jammed, he RELOADED the gun, and fired until the gun was empty. He said something like they all say, “It was the heat of the moment, I just did what anyone would do.” What ANYONE would do? The problem is that almost every city, if you dig enough has at least one murder like this; if not at least one serial killer targeting ONLY t-women. And, I guess it is what anyone would do because I don’t remember the type of panic surrounding the Washington Snipers when in the same city a few years before, EMTs made jokes while Tyra Hunter bled to death. What, we have to ask, is so wrong in a society that the same people who would run into a dangerous environment to save a dog, would make jokes and laugh while watching a human die?

I wish I had a better memory with names, I don’t remember their names and I’m sorry, though because I am a story teller I remember the stories. Indeed, a few stories, I searched again and again to find their names. There was one transitioning woman from the projects who volunteered for teaching kids to do jump rope - and took them out the projects for a competition. I remember that she was considered a local joke. That she was often supervised while with children. She took a group to Atlantic City and had missed the deadlines, the officials wouldn’t budge so she took the kids; aged 11-13 to the beach. Two of the children swam out too far and she swam out and rescued them. She drowned rescuing them. I remember because I didn’t think you heard stories like this anymore; someone dying while rescuing children. I remember that the locals in her hometown had the opinion post death that, “I guess she wasn’t all bad....for a tranny.” I think if it has been someone else they would have been nominated or won some award.

When I was living in the UK I remember one particular newspaper story, a local boxing coach had come out and announced to the club that her name was (oh this eludes me, it was something very British, like Doris). She was stabbed to death that evening by one of the boxers from her own club. I remember thinking, “She wasn’t able to live even ONE DAY as herself before she was killed.” Truth be told is that I almost prefer the sadistic brutality of the US and Canada to the stories when I was in the UK. I remember in the Guardian there were two stories in ONE DAY. A transitioning female who worked at Tesco’s had been brutally bullied by co-workers over months and went home and hung herself. The father stated that his SON was a mentally ill alcoholic and this was probably best. I mean, her own father.... The second story was about a transitioned woman who has put up with harassment by pretty much everyone in a small town for TEN YEARS and the day before had simply walked out in front of a bus. I remember these stories because, MY GOD, ten years? But that both of them had the same sort of editorial tone: it is probably for the best. Hmmm, that’s odd, because when a man just suddenly stabbed a gay man to death on a bus in London a few years ago, Ken Livingstone made a comment about how intolerable it was in this day and age.

So what is there to remember? I think we should remember Mea Culpa – It is our fault. Society is made up of individuals and if the US somehow figured out that killing black men in the 1950’s was NOT OKAY, maybe it is time we as individuals should figure out that human rights and dignity are just that; rights and dignity for every single human; not just the ones we look like, or identify with. If we are unwilling to say, “This is unacceptable” when a transperson is discriminated against, when violence is done to them, then we are telling the world the limitations of US, not them.

Anyway, early this week Marla gave me for an award as a Wonder Woman. And I get to give it to two people. So this is given equally to Sara from Moving Right Along because she has been teaching me that being labeled “terminal” doesn’t mean you actually stop living; and equally for every transwoman; not just because coming out and telling the truth is likely the most dangerous decision they will ever make but because they are living daily in a world which often gives them hatred and scorn for an act of courage and determination.

Since it is November 20th, what do you think we should remember to make our society a better place, a place where transgender people don’t have to live in fear?


Lisa Harney said...

Thank you for posting this. I really appreciate it, plus linked it.

I don't think most people realize just how much being trans is seen as not being a person, or not worthy of the same rights others have. Or they don't realize how thoroughly they accept such a noxious premise as reasonable. Or if they realize it, they're okay with it because trans people aren't really people.

mental mosaic said...

It's appalling, utterly appalling, isn't it? shudder... I never could even bring myself to watch "Boys Don't Cry" in fact, because the subject is so heart-breaking.

In some tribal cultures, though, transgender folks were/are considered to be very spiritual.

Oh gosh, and where's that place, um, I will have to look this up... it's like some part of the Ukraine, maybe? Anyway, when women there choose to live their lives as males, their society actually accepts them as such. Although it's still kinda sad, because often the women do it just to keep from having to do all the crap that would be expected of them if they stayed female. They have to give up their gender in order to obtain 'freedom.' (I'll look this stuff up online and re-comment when I can make more sense.)

Marla Fauchier Baltes said...

I am glad you are handing out the Wonder Woman award. We do live in a world where so many people hur one another out of fear ofr differences. I wish it was not this way and people would just let everyone be.

Zephyr said...

As someone who spent four years dating a MTF T-girl - Amen to that. I cannot believe the violence perpetuated towards transgendered people; my ex took up kung-fu as a child to survive. It saddens me that the justice system is so lenient towards what are clearly hate crimes targeted at transgendered folk.

em said...

I think we should remember that the rage the murderers feel stems from the deeply held taboos against homosexuality. I think we should remember that while there are pockets of light, much of the world is enveloped in darkness.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Lisa: I wanted to no longer be accountable for a society in which one particular group is singled out for such horrific treatment, and your posts on the upcoming Day of Rememberance made me think that I should be a participant AGAINST discrimination and violence instead of just another apathetic pair of eyes in the crowd.

Mental Mosaic: Yes, I did a fast google this morning and the globe and mail said just in 2002 there were 25 murders of transwomen (for those cases where relatives would admit their transgender status). I did watch boys don't cry once but I never can understand that overwhelming need to destroy that gets Brandon killed. I know it is out there, I just still can't understand it.

I also read about the Ukraine and how in Poland the ratio of transmen to transwomen is 14-1. I asked a friend who immigrated from Poland if she knew why there were so many t-men in poland, but she could shed no information on it; so I am still awaiting more info

Marla: Well, I told you the fact that I would so eagerly take the award just to Goth up Wonder Woman in leather and corsets should tell how I probably didn't deserve it; but you gave me the opportunity to pass it on. Thanks.

Zephyr: Yes, I think Vancouver is a not so great hub, I found a t-woman death in 2003 (murderer got 9 years)

And in Douglas Janoff's book Pink Blood, on the acts of murder and violence against gays and lesbians in Canada; the murderer Darren Young, who in 1994 stabbed a gay man 146 times had previously, on two seperate occasions, stabbed transsexual women. Why? I have to wonder, was he not put in prison or flagged as a violent offender/potential hate crime person?,M1

em: I think you are right, it seems that transgender people seem to get the anger directed against homosexuality because a) they can at time be seen to be visably different and thus easily found and b) because your general population, not to mention your hate crime population doesn't seem to know the difference between gender and sexual orientation.

Which is I guess why it frustrates me when the LGB community turns it's back on the T members because it seems the T members are getting much of the violence and hatred that is felt against LGB people (but either no longer socially allowed to be expressed or just because T members make a target no one defends, I can't quite tell)

Lisa Harney said...

Em: Yeah, hatred of trans people seems to stem from a mix of homophobia and misogyny, although we get it much worse in terms of employment to people even saying their science shows that it's natural to loathe trans people.

I think the numbers of trans murders every year tends to be 2-3/month on average. At least, it was the last time I counted.

The LGBT hasn't turned its back yet, only the most transphobic members who pretend that there's some kind of omerta that keeps them from speaking out against trans inclusion - John Aravosis, Andrew Sullivan, and Chris Crain being at the forefront of that, but it's been a refrain for years.

The bigger problem with the GLBT thing is how the political agenda is largely set by affluent, white gay men who can pass as straight.

Lisa Harney said...

Whoops - that Uncanny Valley wikipedia article used to list transitioning trans people as fitting into the uncanny valley/inhuman look.

I can't find the version that had it, but I'm not sorry to see it gone.

I should be a participant AGAINST discrimination and violence instead of just another apathetic pair of eyes in the crowd.

Imagine if even 1 in 10 people did this.

Zephyr said...

I dunno, Vancouver seems to be an all right place, at least for my ex. She was treated very well, even when she didn't pass. She was amazed at how everyone used female pronouns and treated her as her chosen gender - we weren't used to that, being from NF. Vancouver seems pretty progressive that way, if not in others.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Zephyr: Oh, thanks; I haven't lived there so it is good to get a better view - I guess Vancouver Pride is WAY better than another other on this side of Canada. I can't understand though why so many police reports show violence, murder (1/5 of East Van murders were T), deaths in East Vancouver - is that a particularly bad part of Vancouver?

shiva said...

Thanks Elizabeth for posting this. One of my closest friends (without whom i would probably alive now) is a trans woman. It was, in fact, her coming out as trans which gave me the inspiration to "come out" as autistic/disabled/neurodiverse, and i believe there are very, very close links between the oppression (and other experiences) of disabled people and of trans people.

In fact, i'm going to attempt to write a post on those links tonight (though it's already after midnight and therefore no longer Transgender Remembrance Day here, but hey missing deadlines is a feature of my impairment)...

Lisa Harney said...

i believe there are very, very close links between the oppression (and other experiences) of disabled people and of trans people.

Shiva, one of the reasons I read Amanda's blog is because of that. She describes experiences that I've had, almost word for word, because she's autistic and because I'm trans. Reading her writing made it easier for me to articulate what I write on my blog.

Trans people don't have huge curebie movements, parents of trans people trying to control our activism and self-advocacy, or psychiatrists trying to institutionalize us, and I think our lives are seen as just about as valuable, although that shows itself in different ways. I could also go on at length about how alienating it is to socialize as one gender while knowing that you're the other, although I'm not sure how that compares to growing up with autism.

shiva said...

Oh, it's incredibly similar to growing up with undiagnosed autism. I didn't really go into that aspect of it in my post last night as much as i wanted to (my concentration has limits). I will have to address that whole "anti-socialisation" experience in future posts. Seriously tho, the closeness of the parallels between many of my childhood experiences and many of my trans friend's childhood experiences is scary...

Also, i have heard of a curebie movement for trans people, although it's perhaps not as active as it used to be - the whole "anti-depressants and psychotherapy will turn you back into a normal boy" thing espoused by at least some psychiatrists. And parents of trans people are very, very often totally opposed to their children transitioning and to trans advocacy and organisation, even if they're less organised about it than "cure autism" parents are... the parallels aren't exact, but, IMO, they're similar enough that every autistic person should be a trans ally and vice versa...

cheryl g. said...

As a lesbian I have never understood the animosity the other women in my local community display to trans individuals. It seems to be summed up by FTM are "traitors" to the gender and MTF are in possesion of a Y chromosome so they can't be accepted. When I speak up and point out that we are all marginalized by society and need to support each other they just give me nasty looks.

Of course the nasty looks don't shut me up so they will just have to get used to me and my soapbox...

Sara said...

Thank you for the sweet award (which I really think you deserve far more than I do; congratulations), but thank you even more for this excellent post.

It is, as Mental Mosaic put it, utterly appalling. Utterly.

Frankly, I have always been baffled that anyone cares what body parts anyone else has or what anyone does with any of them, except that there should be no rape and we should wish each other joy in whatever we've got. Life is so fucking hard, and for everyone. Do we really have to give each other grief over this, too? Really?

And the brutality! It's completely insane. Completely. Not natural. Pathological.

There's no question in my mind that this violence is the result of many centuries of a stupid, stupid violence-based/enforced culture tying gender with value. It's like the song says, "you've got to be carefully taught." I know that's about color and this is about gender, but really it works out to the same thing.

Lisa Harney said...

I'll have to dig that up, Shiva. I was thinking of stuff like in Canada, where the nationally funded autism advocacy-type group is run by parents and professionals, and autistic people get to be on a token "advisory board" with no real voice.

That and autistic children getting potentially lethal chelation treatments to get rid of the supposed mercury.

Thank you for saying this stuff, though - it's something I've had in my brane for a couple months now, and I like seeing I'm not insane. :)

Cheryl, what always gets me about the nastiness - lesbian, straight, gay - is how they fixate on the Y chromosome, like it's some kind of magic talisman branded into our flesh, as if there's some kind of essence tied into that gorram chromosome.

But if you challenge them about AIS women, they'll tell you the Y chromosome doesn't count then, and those women are too rare to matter.

Sara, yeah... bigotry really expresses itself in similar ways across different groups, whether it's race, sexual orientation, gender identity, and so on.

A lot of what gets said about one group can be applied to another. The causes are different, but the language is nearly always very similar.

And the transphobia/transmisogyny comes from devaluing femininity and valorizing masculinity, something that happens in every part of modern culture - lesbians do it, feminists do it, everyone does.

shiva said...

...except a whole shitload of "transsexuals" are probably undiagnosed "partial" AIS women... and, by some definitions, as many as 1 in 10 children have some degree of what could be classified as an intersex condition (1 in 100 have a "serious" intersex condition, ie enough to be visually noticeable or affect sexual function/fertility)...

and lots of other statistics that science-defying radfems ignore...

Zephyr said...

The problem is I think with murder of prostitutes in the downtown east side, although I could be wrong. I wonder if any of the murdered transgendered people were street-walkers? Anyway, I don't really know where the stats are coming from, so you probably know more about it than I do. I do know that the DTES is a pretty rough place for crime and violence and such.

Anonymous said...

I wanted to do a MTF years ago, and thought about it a great deal. This was at a time I spent in a gender bend bondage group of enthusiasts who were bi men and women in Calgary, some who were prostitutes in Alberta. One in particular, was totally passable as female, and he convinced me not to do MTF for the reasons he chose not to. I don't consider myself to be a xdresser male, rather in a body that has two souls so to speak, one male, one female. So begins the issue, if I dress female, I'm perceived as a guy in drag, and rejected by hetero kink women because they don't consider me "man" enough to "have intercourse" with them after BDSM play. Some bi women will sort of accept me, but because I still have that "c**k" between my legs, (although it is micro because of gender confusion at birth), girls who like girls are disturbed by it's presence.
I spent a lot of time in spirituality study, based on depression and sadness all the time crying out ("God why did you do this to me?), and went through native Indian culture and Judaism. The native Indian cultures call it "two spirit" (which you can find on Wikipedia), I call it two souls, aka two people.
Since I passed 50 years old, I'm getting less depressed about finding acceptance and/or BDSM play friends, and reckon that I'll just live out the rest of my life without any MTF transformations, and just leave it as either I dress like a man, or dress like a woman, and do any play scenes based on the interests of the woman. I occasionally link up with married women who hate the intercourse thing completely, and usually they are mid 40's and beyond.
I suppose then that I have found a way to steer from the societal hatred of cis and transgendered men. It is very real though, and very ugly.