Thursday, November 22, 2012

Transgender Day of Remembrance

On Sunday I went to my first Transgender Day of Remembrance ceremony. It's a gathering, usually held sometime in late November, to honor all of the trans people who were murdered over the past year for being trans. The organizers had a list of something like 268 people around the world who were murdered last year - and they couldn't get data from all countries. 17 people were killed in the US. Here is some more information if you're interested.

This all sounds very depressing, and I had never wanted to go to a TDOR event before, because I don't like feeling sad. But in fact, although we talked about a lot of sad things, I felt happy too. Mostly because we were all there together. We are still here. And we know about these others who have been taken from us - even that is something. They are not forgotten and we are not alone.

Some people stood up and talked about their lives. I started wondering what I would say . . . and I still don't know how I would describe my life, but it brought back one memory.

In September 2005, I finally admitted to myself that I was trans. It was around the time of my birthday. In fact I had been thinking about this for six months, but . . . to make a long story short, I had been thinking of it as something that was unique to me. I wasn't thinking of myself as a "trans person" like other "trans people," I just thought of it as some imaginary thing inside my own head. But that September I started to realize that I might have to do something about it. It might have to come out of the closet and become visible in the world.

I had been doing some reading, and found some pictures of Missy, one of history's famous butches. I've blogged about her before - here's her picture again. Missy was one of Colette's lovers, and if I remember correctly I was looking at a photo of her in a biography of Colette.

I have an old collection of clip art that has stayed with me through several computers now. On that evening one picture came to my attention. I guess it showed up in my screensaver. It was a picture of a woman, and I thought to myself, "that's my image of myself as a woman."

I knelt there on the floor with these two pictures in front of me. I saw that this was my choice, and I knew which one was the real me. I can't describe to you how terrified I was.  Moreover, I didn't want to abandon a life that I had worked so hard on, even though I knew now that it wasn't real. For a few moments there, I hoped that it still could be real. Can't one be beautiful and feminine and gracious and gentle and all those nice and pleasant things? What's wrong with that?

Of course that's not all there was to it. Being trans in our society is a dangerous thing. As I knelt there I asked myself, "Don't you want to be safe? How can you endanger yourself this way? If you come out you will lose everything." I was afraid to let anyone see the real me. Nobody ever had. And what would they think if they knew I'd been lying to them all the time?

If you let people know you are trans you will lose everything. That is what Transgender Day of Remembrance reminds us of. Really it's only luck that keeps us alive - certainly there are no laws to protect us. Nothing really bad has happened to me yet, aside from having to live in fear. Then again, if I ask "Why do I have to live in fear?" I don't really have any good answer.

I'm not an "everything happens for the best and we live in the best of all possible worlds" person. I'm glad I came out. These days I am happier (and more terrified) than I've ever been in my life. But I don't want anyone reading this to go away thinking that everything happens for the best. A lot of stuff happens for the worst.

I didn't lose everything. I lost many things that I'm better off without. I don't want to be that person anymore. I made the right choice. But this all still really sucks. That's all I have to say.


  1. You need to read this out in public somewhere, maybe we could incorporate these 'testimonials' in our LTA meetings each month. What you say and how you feel is so important for people to know. It is part of you, but it is also a part of all of us. Lizzy

    1. Thanks Lizzy, I'd like to do that sometime.