This blog post has been written by a member of a:gender.
November 20th brings us this sombre event once more, on which we take a moment to remember those trans people who have lost their lives in the past year. I have written a number of pieces for Spectrum (Spectrum is the Home Office LGBT+ Network) on this subject, and unsurprisingly they have concentrated on the victims of violence and hatred who have died unnecessarily over the years, simply for the ‘crime’ of being a transgender person. From its origins as an event initiated after the brutal murder of Rita Hester, stabbed more than thirty times, through deaths of women like Dee Whigham, 25, stabbed more than a hundred times, mostly in the face, or the suicide of Leelah Alcorn at 17, to reports that the life expectancy of a trans woman of colour in the USA is no more than 35 years, it remains a brutal and painful subject.
I don’t want to dwell on individual losses this year: I want to write about myself. Not as narcissism, but in recognition of how very, very lucky I am in both the times I am living through and the place I inhabit. I see a purpose beyond remembering our dead, and working to stop more people using their lives, and that is simply counting my blessings.
I am considerably older than many who will be reading this, as I was born in the 1950s. My first hint that there are people like me was from a newspaper hatchet job on April Ashley, and the court case Corbett V Corbett. I have lived through a number of legal changes, such as s28, and the enactments of the Gender Recognition Act 2004 and the Equality Act 2010. While there are issues with those two statutes, they are better than I ever dreamt possible as a scared and lonely child. I work for an employer who respects my gender identity, and actively listens to what I and others like me tell them. Despite unrelenting attacks from hate groups and all parts of the press, I have a chance to make a difference for the better, which is a blessing beyond price.
In comparison with some other parts of the world, I do indeed have an easy life. Poland and Hungary, for example, have launched severe attacks on the rights of transgender and non-binary people. Poland has recently removed the right of trans people to transition legally. Russia has been attacking trans rights for many years, including such back-door nastiness as revoking their driving licences on the basis of gender dysphoria being defined by their government as a ‘mental disorder’. The level of violence against trans women in Brazil never fails to shock me, and, as I have described in earlier pieces, the level of violence is almost unimaginable. It isn’t the simple fact of murder, but the frenzy evident in the act that shocks.
Then there are the excuses. I have mentioned the low life expectancy of BAME trans women in the USA, and that is largely a result of direct bigotry. Where you can be legally sacked and evicted from your home, just for being trans, often the only way to survive is by sex work. I have read countless articles explaining the death rate as “Well, sex workers, risky job, isn’t it? Should have chosen a safer lifestyle”. Circular ‘logic’ of the worst sort.
Recently in the USA, several States have removed a legal defence for murder from their law books, the plea of “Gay/trans panic”. In essence, it is deemed reasonable to murder someone after sex if they turn out to be trans, or the assailant suspects they are trans. It is also an acceptable defence for murdering someone who the killer claims, in essence, looked at them in a way they interpreted as sexual, which can mean something as innocuous as simply making eye contact. When I say ‘several States’, I mean eight. The first was California, as recently as 2014. In 42 US States, therefore, it is considered reasonable to kill a woman for perhaps having hands a little larger then expected, or a man for being slightly colourful in his clothing choices.
I apologise if some of the above comes across as flippant, but I find the whole concept to be utterly and incredibly wrong. I have attached a right-wing press article below, which ‘justifies’ the concept, but I would advise the need for a strong stomach if you choose to read it.
There we have it. I sit here typing this out, living my real life, living as myself. I receive regular abuse, and occasional physical attacks, but my life is overflowing with blessings so many others lack, and I am alive to enjoy them. So many others are not. That is the meaning of Trans Day of Remembrance: we may not be able to fulfil a promise of ‘Never again’, but we can all do our best to work towards that goal, and remember those without the blessings I am still counting.
a:gender are the staff network that supports all trans and intersex staff across Government. To contact them, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.