TW: Trans* Day of Remembrance, Trans*phobia, Murders/Death
Last week the western world stood in silence as the clock struck 11am in order to remember those who died in war. Wreaths were lain, news channels were full of images of mourners and memorials. This Sunday the western world will carry on, they won’t stop. There won’t be national services of remembrance. There won’t be news coverage of world leaders laying wreaths. The deaths of thousands of trans* people will be largely forgotten for another year. (If you would like to remember them you can look here…it is long and heart breaking, but we should remember)
And this is despite 2016 being a year celebrated for it’s movement forward in trans* rights and trans* visibility. We have trans* stories being told in the media, in films (though often portrayed by cis people). Yes, we may have raised awareness, we may be talking more about trans* identities, but awareness does not bring change. We have finally brought same-sex marriage into law in the UK. Trans* people have the legal right to have their gender recognised, to receive effective and appropriate health care, to have the same access to services, yet none of these things mean that we have real, social equality.
Yes, awareness is needed. I don’t deny the fact that we need to read the list of murdered trans* people from the last year, to see their names and how they died. Yes, awareness begets conversations and engagement with the trans* community. However it is evidently clear that awareness is not stemming the tide of violence towards and discrimination against trans* people.
It isn’t a new or abstract idea that laws need to reflect social norms in order to be properly enforced. Look to the Black Lives Matter movement in USA to see that the law that is equal isn’t enforced equally for black and white individuals. And the same is true for trans* people. Laws will never be enough unless the social norms are changed in order to reflect them. Unfortunately social change is far more complex and difficult than changing the rules or law making.
In order to see change, in order to reach true equality, we need to make trans* identities a social norm. And by that I mean we need to realise that trans* people are in fact (shock alert….) ACTUAL PEOPLE. The 295 (at least) trans* people who were murdered this year alone were sons, daughters, siblings, friends, parents, students, teachers, lovers. They brought light to the dark places they stepped and their presence raised awareness. But they were deemed to be “other”, to be “wrong”, to be inferior and for that they were killed.
It hurts me to think that we are not moving forward with this, though the world’s media may shout about these perceived equalities being reached when in fact it more often feels that we are moving backwards. But what can we do? This is, after all, a call to arms.
You can start by being more than a bystander ally, be an active ally. If you declare yourself a safe person are you prepared for what that might mean? How far would you go to protect another person? Are you ready to fight? To take a hit? It is not enough to wear a badge declaring your ally status if you are not willing to step up into the fray.
Do you know just what it is that you are standing with us for? Do you recognise and attempt to understand the oppression that exists? If not, ask. Don’t assume.
And on that note, don’t assume that a trans* person under attack will need or want you help. Just as many won’t appreciate a 999 call for police. Do you understand that the places you feel safe are often the dangerous spaces for those you ally with?
But most of all, there is this. Awareness is simply not good enough. Nor is remembrance. We stand once again to remember the hundreds of trans* people murdered for living as their authentic selves, and yet it does not get better, this has been the deadliest year recorder for trans* people. So no, remembering is not enough. We must act. Start small: sign a petition for trans* rights (here), or for the rights of trans* prisoners (here). Campaign for and set up new safe spaces around your town (here). Write to your local health authorities about trans* healthcare options. Write to you local MP about the appalling lack of services for trans* people. Volunteer for a charity. Be an advocate (here). Educate yourself, read, read, read, and ask questions. Treat trans* people as people, as humans not curiosities.
This is your call to arms. Will you join me?