This year, at least 34 transgender individuals have been killed, the highest number since the Human Rights Campaign began tracking it in 2013. The sad reality is that, not only have the lives of at least 34 people been cut short, many of their killers will walk free. The trans panic defense, which is currently only banned in 11 states, allows people to claim that they killed someone in a panic after learning the victim was transgender. This defense is typically used against trans women, especially Black trans women who have been historically overrepresented in homicide counts. This year is no different. Of the 34 known homicides against trans and nonbinary individuals this year, 25 were women of color. We know that within the oppressive forces imposed on LGBTQ individuals exist systems of misogyny and white supremacy but why? What can we do about it?
One of the biggest dangers that I see even among other members of the LGBTQ+ community is the failure to remember that we can, and often do contribute to systems such as misogyny and white supremacy that disproportionately impact the members of our community that need us the most. It could even be argued that this phenomenon is even more dangerous within the community because, though we are fighting for the rights of our LGBTQ siblings, the myth that we can’t contribute to the oppression that we are fighting against leads us to exclude our siblings that have also been excluded by society. Even within our diverse community, trans women of color are often left underrepresented in leadership, unheard in discussions, and unseen in movements.
This Transgender Day of Remembrance, let us remember the at least 34 transgender individuals whose lives were violently and senselessly cut short. Let us continue to fight for legal protections for our community. But let us not forget that the work starts with ourselves, recognizing our biases and blindspots. Let us not forget to hold ourselves accountable in the same ways that we hold our oppressors accountable. Our lives and the lives of our siblings depend on it.
When my son Justin came out his junior year in high school, my wife and I were supportive and, in many ways, there was very little change in our relationship. Justin had an excellent group of friends and other kind and supportive adults in his life and he was extremely independent and confident, so we did not worry about him. In some ways, it may have brought us closer. Justin was so busy with school and theater we seldom had time to even discuss it – Justin was just always so driven and self-assured. Seems like he graduated and was off to college in the blink of an eye and our interactions were more infrequent as he poured himself into a double major and Elon’s theater program. It wasn’t until a few years later when Justin was dealing with some issues that my wife and I realized just how much Justin had internalized during his school years (especially middle school). When Justin finally decided to open up to us, we realized that Justin had effectively lost a significant part of his childhood. He was continuously worried that he would embarrass us if it came out that he was gay. That brought tears to my eyes because that meant that regardless of how “progressive” I thought I was – Justin’s perspective was that he could be an embarrassment. I don’t know the burden being gay carries – I’ve read about it – Justin has lived it especially here in the South, but I can’t say I know how it feels and I certainly don’t know how it feels to not have a childhood.
Now add to all of this the position held by most – not all – conservative churches regarding homosexuality and you can easily see how anyone who is LBGTQ would struggle mightily to find their way in our society. I will spare all of you the results of my own personal deep dives into Biblical hermeneutics, dissecting the original Greek and Hebrew (a difficult task considering I barely eked out a C- in French). What I can tell you is – that as I look back with 20/20 hindsight – I wish I had held Justin close and told him (the first time that I thought that he might be effeminate or gay or different than his other friends) that he was perfect just the way he was. I wish I had told him that he was enough and that I loved him, that I was proud of him and that without question he is a beautiful creation of God – who also loves him – and to be himself because he could never ever do anything to embarrass me or anyone else. I also wish we had changed churches sooner than we did, but that is a story for another entire blog in and of itself.
My journey began four years ago when our smart, introverted child, took on an unrecognizable attitude. My child had recently turned 15, so my husband and I assumed that she was simply showing the “symptoms” of adolescence. Nevertheless, we were still very worried and wanted to help our child.
We had noticed shifts — more isolated, even sad. We observed changes in how she presented herself to the world — a short hair cut, more masculine attire. We began to wonder if perhaps our child was lesbian and didn’t know how to tell us.
One night, not knowing what else to do, my husband simply asked our child if she identified as lesbian, and she said yes. Now that our child was out, we thought the behavior would improve, but the depression got worse.
We were scared, and we didn’t understand. We found a therapist who told us after several sessions that our child had something to share with us when they were ready. It wasn’t long before our child left us a letter under our bedroom door.
The letter said that, after much thought and analysis, our child was ready to accept that he identified not as a girl, but rather as a boy. At first, I was shocked. I kept asking him if he was sure. Then I remembered that my child was never easily influenced and had always known what he wanted. I knew that he had done the research, and that he had no doubt about who he was.
As my husband and I supported our child with his transition, we worried a lot about bullying from classmates and the community in general. We also were not sure how to explain the transition to my mother. Would he find acceptance and support in our Hispanic community, at school, and within our family?
Our worries brought us to PFLAG Charlotte, a nonprofit organization that supports families, allies and LGBTQ individuals. We found understanding and advice in the peer support groups offered by PFLAG Charlotte. They helped us find affirming healthcare providers for transgender individuals. They even offered Spanish-language publications for my mother. As someone who plays a prominent role in my child’s life, it was important that she have her own resources.
PFLAG Charlotte guided us through the most complicated period of our lives. I am committed to giving back to the organization, and we are working to increase PFLAG resources for communities of color in Charlotte.
My son has overcome enormous challenges in order to be true to who he is: a happy, brilliant 18 year old who earned a full scholarship to an excellent university.
I didn’t end up having the daughter I anticipated, but I have a son who is full of all the traits I’ve admired since he was a child. PFLAG envisions a world where diversity is celebrated and all people are respected, valued and affirmed – inclusive of their sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. With the help of PFLAG Charlotte, I believe this vision will come true.
Beaming at me, he said, “I can’t wait until everyone sees me and says ‘SHE’S so pretty’” I knew then our lives would change forever.Read More
“The words that follow are tied to the documentary video with regards to welcome that I posted yesterday (last week). . . . I can’t in good conscience be silent about some of the stories I collected.” Read More
“As a documentary artist . . . I wanted to explore welcome from the perspective of the receiver. Those who walk into faith communities and may or may not feel welcome.”Read More
Author: Amanda Dumas, PFLAG Parent
I recently finished sorting through the holiday “brag” letters we received from friends and family. We read about adult children with…Read More
I have never seen so many rainbows. This is my first (admittedly asinine) thought as I stepped onto Trade Street during Charlotte’s annual Pride festival. Read More