I believe we are blessed to live in a time when we are more openly and gracefully speaking of our sisters and brothers who are transgendered, but I also realize that many of our precious neighbors and family members still face stresses, threats and dangers that the majority of us do not recognize or understand.
It’s November, and November 20th is an awareness day to remember our fellow transgendered human beings who have died: Transgender Day of Remembrance.
If you wonder why we have a special day like this, please take a moment to peruse articles that educate us on the threats and stresses facing our trans friends and family: murder, suicide, teen homelessness and violent crime.
The conversation about transgendered men and women has gone mainstream and we all know the names of celebrities and public figures who have made their transition in various levels of public scrutiny: Laverne Cox, Chaz Bono, and Caitlyn Jenner. Last year for Transgendered Remembrance Day I shared a couple of videos in a blog post, one from Laverne Cox and one from an amazing pastor and preacher, Allysson Robinson.
I have a few simple requests to everyone as we approach the 20th this year:
- Stop posting mean-spirited and discouraging memes and messages on social media about transgendered men and women. You may not think of Caitlyn Jenner’s transition as courageous, but when she receives an award from someone who thinks she shows courage, and you compare her to examples of firefighters or soldiers, you’re not being smart or clever, you’re just being mean and misrepresenting. There is a kind of courage that enables someone to survive media scrutiny and our disdain in the public arena, and it in no way diminishes other types of courage in other areas of life. Drawing unfair comparisons because you don’t like Caitlyn is a distraction and it is mean-spirited.
- Educate yourself on gender dysphoria so that you can stop spreading the demonization and criminalization of transgendered women and men. Learn about Gender Dysphoria in the DSM-5 and a good Huffington Post article. No, trans neighbors are not faking their gender identity to sneak into your bathroom. No, trans neighbors are not immature sexual attention-getters. No, trans neighbors are not out to make you trans, prey on you or your children, or even more likely to be sexual offenders. Please take some time to study the facts on sexual assault and sexual crimes, and you will learn the difference between many myths and many facts, supported by the numbers, like the fact: “sex offenders are disproportionately likely to be heterosexual men.” Some quick links and sources for your perusal: RAINN, University of Michigan (info for new students and the source of the above mentioned quote), CASA, and this long but important read from UC Davis. These links do often speak to the question of sexual orientation more than gender presentation or transition, but they are still good reads for us as we tend to fear and demonize what we do not understand. We are far more influenced by political spin and the culture war proponents (i.e. gullible) when we are less educated on issues.
- Be graceful and compassionate, practicing empathy and mercy for others. Take a long hard look at the numbers of homeless trans teens who have been kicked out by their families, a long look at the numbers of trans suicide attempts and successes, and a long look at the rates of violent crime against our trans neighbors, and then ask yourself: “Do I want to say or share anything that continues to stigmatize or hurt a group of people who are already under such assault and victims of such hatred and violence?” It’s time we all spent a lot more time owning our words and their impact. It’s time we owned the responsibility to be people promoting and increasing grace in the world. Even if you read every post I linked in this blog and still don’t quite understand gender dysphoria or understand someone’s authentic struggle with their gender identity, you can still be merciful, empathetic and kind. In fact, you must.
As with our discussions around sexual orientation, there’s so much to learn from knowing a person who is transgendered. Knowing people is the best way to break down the stereotypes and prejudices. You may not know someone who identifies as a the gender opposite of their birth gender or sexual organs, but you can listen to the stories and struggles of real people like: Chase Marie, stories from The New York Times, and lots more at TransPeopleSpeak.org.
Life can be real struggle, as we all know. Our paths may be divergent in many ways, but at the intersections we have magical moments when love and grace ignite the wonder of God. Pray this month for the souls of those who die at the hands of our fear and ignorance. Pray for the peace and joy of all God’s children.