T is for transgender.
T is for transition.
T is for trauma.
Trauma From All Sides
I wonder if most cisgender people realize how horrifically traumatic it is to be transgender. I don’t think most do.
We transgender people start out in life dealing with gender dysphoria. It is like an invisible force tearing us apart. It is insistent, consistent, and persistent. Our bodies are showing the world a version of ourselves that is diametrically opposed to our hardwired, neurological gender identity. This alone is incredibly traumatic.
Add to the equation the fear that we struggle with prior to our transition. We are terrified that if someone discovers our truth, we will be rejected by our friends, fired from our jobs, and ostracized by our families.
When finally we do come out, more often than not, those fears are realized. I lost my marriage, my family, my home, my job, my church, and all of my friends. It feels as if someone has dropped a nuclear bomb on our lives and we are left wandering this post-apocalyptic wasteland of existence.
But there’s more. There is a society that is violently and systematically transphobic. One that paints us as monsters, child-molesters, rapists, freeloaders, freaks, and crazy people. We are deemed unfit for military service and risk our lives just for using a public toilet.
The Consequences of Trauma
I once read Leonard Gross’ book The Last Jews in Berlin, a heart-wrenching account of several Jews struggling to survive in Nazi-occupied Berlin. Some hid in attics. Others tried to pass themselves off as Gentiles, all the while terrified of being found out. That’s what it feels like.
Facing this trauma every day is terrorizing. We are at a much higher rate of being assaulted or even killed. Murders of trans people, and especially trans women of color, are at an all-time high.
It comes as no surprise that the suicide rate among the transgender community is more that 40%, ten times that of the general population. Substance abuse and PTSD and clinical depression are also much higher in our community because of this.
The trauma nearly killed me on multiple occasions. I am a twice-survivor of attempted suicide. I am a recovering alcoholic. I am a survivor of rape and domestic abuse, both of which can be connected to the trauma from being transgender.
Take a Stand or Get Outta the Way
I was recently kicked off of a Facebook writer’s group because when asked why I continue to write, I said it was because of the fascists. I said that every time Trump and his merry band of neo-Nazis, white-supremacists, and transphobes spews their hate, it makes me want to write more transgender and queer crime fiction.
I was told not to get political, that it would hurt sales of my books. And when I scoffed and said that the neo-Nazis weren’t my target market so fuck them, I was accused by the group admin that I was being verbally abusive. I was warned not to be political.
But when you are transgender, your very existence is political. Using a
public restroom is a controversial, revolutionary act. Daring to dress as our true selves in public is considered by many an affront to civil society. But the problem isn’t us. The problem is a society that demonizes what it adamantly refuses to understand.
I live by the Roadhouse rule, a reference to the Patrick Swayze film, Roadhouse. The rule is this: Be nice until it’s time to not be nice.
I bend over backwards to be kind, to lift up the downtrodden, to make the world a kinder, safer, gentler place. And I don’t ask for much in return. This is how I learned to be from people like Fred Rogers.
But when the neo-Nazis show up with torches, don’t you dare castigate me for suggesting that we show up with cans of lighter fluid, especially when the neo-Nazis aren’t coming for you. They and their ilk have been coming after me my whole life. And I’m not afraid to fight fire with fire.
Don’t tell me that being political will hurt my writing career. Privileged white, straight, cisgender people refusing to stand up to the fascists is the reason I have a writing career.
Don’t tell me they have a right to spew their hate. Hate speech is just a form of bullying. So if you’re defending their right to bully people like me who have been traumatized our whole lives, then fuck you! You are part of the problem. You are why I see suicide notes posted every day in transgender Facebook groups.
It’s time to not be nice. Not to the neo-Nazis. Not to the white supremacists. Not to the transphobic, homophobic, misogynistic, racist piece of shit that is Trump and every fucking one of his supporters. It’s time to draw the line. It’s time to push back. And if you stand in our way, we will run you over and build a better world on the bones of your privilege and self-righteous piety.