National Transgender Day of Remembrance/This Is a Love Letter
Today is the National Transgender Day of Remembrance, and if there's one thing I regret about having had a plague cough/virus for a week and a half, it's not having had the time/energy to write about this week of events. There were movies, meetings and talks, and damned if I didn't sit on my couch coughing my way through all of them. Hope some of you got out for them!
The culmination comes tonight in the Atrium Building, where I may be (though the plague's not entirely over):
From the City of Eugene's website
Why do we have a Trans Day of Remembrance? Well, it's because there's an awful lot of violence against trans people. There's an awful lot of gender-policing out there that means real, sustained, horrific violence against people who don't meet some culturally imposed and totally fucked idea about gender norms.
Yet, we know, even these high numbers are only a fraction of the real figures. The truth is much worse. These are only the reported cases which could be found through internet research. There is no formal data and it is impossible to estimate the numbers of unreported cases.
And that's not all. Today, a young trans person writes at Feministing about suicide rates among trans folks. This is such a painful reminder that just living in this world is an everyday hell for many people.
Before I moved to Eugene, I used to do a lot more activist work, including running a fair number of groups at the Women's Resource and Action Center at the U of Iowa. The main group I ran was called The Gender Puzzle. We used Kate Bornstein's funny, smart My Gender Workbook to talk and write about everything from the gender police to the difference between gender and biological sex. I met a lot of people who identified as gender-queer, young straight women who simply wanted to investigate what the heck gender was supposed to mean to them, and, of course, trans folks. Some people were barely beginning to explore their transitions from male to female or female to male, and it was such a privilege to know them, to learn that a Mary Kay consultant might be a transwoman's resource while a young transman could get support from his family to be his real self.
At the time, I was a columnist for the UI's Daily Iowan. I remembered how hard the winter holidays were for me with my family as I was coming out as a lesbian, and I knew they'd be harder on some of my trans friends. Some were parents; some had to go home to their parents; some were staying away from home so they didn't have to deal with telling their families who they were. Some had very religious families with people who rejected them out of hand. Some were told how wrong they were. And that filled me with massive fury â€” come on, they were the bravest people I knew! They survived long years living in bodies that didn't feel like their own. They survived. So I wrote a column â€”Â one of those things that just pours out of you, feels like it was almost written for you â€” that ran in the DI on Dec. 1, 2000. I know this is all braggy, but to my mind, it's the best thing I've ever written. I mean, FUCK THE GENDER POLICE and all, but this wasn't for them â€” it was for the people I loved.
The DI doesn't keep online archives back that far (for no reason that I can tell), but luckily it was reposted (heh, without my permission, but so what? It benefitted me!) in its entirety a couple of other places, like here.
And now here, after the jump.
Friday, December 1, 2000
"A Message of Love For Those Who Need It"
This is a love letter.
This is a love letter because you don't hear it often enough, especially during the holidays. This is a love letter because even though you don't believe it all the time, you belong in this world.
This is a love letter to every young lesbian who's been told she's not a real girl until she has sex with a man. This is a love letter to every boy who's been beaten for not being manly, and to every muscular gay guy who has looked on in terrified silence. This is a love letter to the teenage drag queens who get kicked out of their houses and end up tricking on the streets. This is a love letter to all the gay kids who think about dying and sometimes succeed because the world doesn't prize their lives.
This is a love letter to the queer students who live courageously in the dorms, the ones who've told me the horror stories: the students whom certain teachers trash in class, the students on whom pranks are played and whose door decorations are ripped down, the students who risk bodily harm and the disdain of the a homophobic, gender-policing world in order to claim their birthright as human beings.
This is a love letter to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and Trans kids who are growing up in families or religions that don't recognize and appreciate the diversity of human life. This is a love letter to the LGBT adults like Mel White who persist, knocking gently and not-so-gently on the doors of their familial and spiritual homes, saying, "We know we have a place at this table, under this roof; we belong in this synagogue, this mosque, this church."
This is a love letter to butch lesbians and flaming gay men, a love letter for every moment of your life when you've braved living with integrity, looking the world in the eye. This is a love letter to dykes like Lea Delaria who walk with that special swagger, and to gay boys like Jack on "Will and Grace" who walk with the special swish.
This is a love letter to Brandon Teena, who lived his too-short life with reckless abandon because he didn't know his own value and possibility. This is a love letter to tell the female-to-male and male-to-female people out there that your life matters, that your survival means a richer and better world.
This is a love letter to the women and men, the drag queens and kings, who risked arrest at Stonewall in 1969 when they fought against police. This is a love letter to all those who frequented the small gay bars in Jackson; Miss. in Bend, Ore; in Des Moines, Iowa, who survived police raids, brutality and humiliation in order to find more of your own kind. This is a love letter to the butch women and gay men raped by police over many long years of oppression.
This is a love letter to those on the front lines of gender and sexuality, especially Trans people I know and cherish. I love your emotional, intellectual and physical selves. I love your shy and bold voices. I love the lines of your faces,your cheekbones. I love your eyes, full of fear and hope and honesty.
I love your mouths, above which hair might be cultivated or plucked. I love your necks, graceful and taut or solid and protected. I love your shoulders, thickened by testosterone or toned and thinned by training. I love your chests, the scars of mastectomies, the proud new breasts, the fine, gentle hearts that beat beneath.
I love your hands -- the hands that some claim show your former gender assignment, the hands that work in factories and in hospitals, the hands that carry my UPS packages, the hands that hold chalk, the hands that hold babies. I love your pre-operative bodies, your post-operative bodies, your glorious and beautiful, diverse and marvelous bodies.
I love you, my dear queer family, for giving the world your many gifts: flexibility, understanding, complexity, beauty and courage. Stay warm this holiday season. Stay alive. And stay proud.