Death, Please.

Subj:        Death, Please.
Date:       08/10/96

Why are TG people so focused on death?

Much of the organizing energy over the past few years has been on the death of a handful of TG people — Brandon Teena, Tyra Hunter, Chanelle Pickett, Deborah Forte, the gals in Toronto, Christian Paige.  Riki has her “We are not disposable!” speech down pat, and has been able to use these deaths very powerfully to get sympathy and support.

While the death of any individual is sad, we don’t know how mant TG people are killed — is it more than average for their profession and role, or less? Are we really under attack — or do we just feel unsafe?

I think that one of the reasons we all feel so unsafe is that one of the key parts of TG is death — the death of a persona.  When we gendershift, a part of us dies — and to some people, it feels like a whole person dies.

Maybe one of the reasons that the Benjamin Standards are focused on people “Who have always been a woman inside” rather that people who choose to be a woman, is because that makes SRS the birth of a woman — and not the death of a man.  The doctor simply frees the real vagina rather than killing the old penis.

Kate Bornstein writes in Gender Outlaw:


Sometimes, it’s not the fist in your belly that gets to you. Sometimes, it’s when they’re quiet, even polite. Sometimes, it’s how they look at you day after day that finally gets to you.

They squint at you, like they can’t see.

It’s as if by squinting they might get a better make on you.

If they’re in a crowd, they shift their eyes so friends can’t tell they’re looking at you. Real subtle.

You can read the fear behind the smirk, The hatred just past the disgust.

You worry it’s your paranoia. and you always hope it’s only your paranoia. (Confidence, they’ve told you, helps you pass.)

But there’s always one of them who looks at you with longing. And that scares you the most, Because if you let that longing into your heart, you have to accept yourself just the way you are.


I wonder if it’s not the people who would kill us with knives and fists that scare us, but the people who would kill us with kindness and acceptance.

When they stop being disapproving, start accepting us, we are faced with the horrible decision — is it time to die?  Should the man persona that has sereved me so well, that was so hard to build, the ego laden armor that protected the tender child within — should that be dropped, killed?

That person was built to satisfy the expectations of others around us.  How do we tell those people who learned to love that persona that he has to die so another can be born.

All TG people are born with drama in their soul.  And the ultimate high-drama-event is simple — death and rebirth.  It is required.

It’s true that every good-bye is a hello, every death a rebirth — but the reason we hold joy for the birth of a baby is because we believe in the joyous possibilities a baby has in front of them.

Yet who can hold joy for the birth of a loud, queer human?  Do we have to make promises of acceptance and future to accept rebirth — or can we just leap.

These are the questions of the hero quest, no doubt.

We do need to mourn out bothers and sisters who have died at the hands of another — even at their own hand.  But I suspect that one reason we fight death so much is because we fight our own death, the death that being profoundly TG still requires.

It is the death of so many things.  Of the ego patterns and protections we have build up to create a gender role that doesn’t fit us.  Of a past that isn’t useful.  Of a son or a daughter that parents have expectations for.  Of a parent who children look up to.  Of one career.  Of the dreams that we would be able to fit in.  Of all the work and pain we used to try to fit in, to stem the flood of TG.

It is also the birth, a new birth, full of new possibilities and new power. It is the birth we must focus on, it is true — knowing that while we are forever changed, we are also forever the same.  Everyone has their own way of embracing the new birth — from Rachel Pollack’s mythological bent to other people’s total rejection of their past.

Yet, if we don’t die, we can’t be reborn.

I want to talk about death, about how we embrace the death that is required, about how we deal not just with our grief & mourning — which is mild, because the dream of a new life is planted deeply in us, or we would not leap — but of how we help the others around us though the process.  Can we?  Or do we just have to abandon them, do off in the woods to die and be reborn on a journey, the traditional transexual way as in “In Search Of Eve?”

I do not believe my life as a man was imply a canard — or that the relationships that people had with me as a man were not true.  I don’t hate my life, and don’t want to — and that makes death harder.   But we constantly have the pressure of rebirth – and for me, that involves being born out, public and loud.  Scary.

Does the gender community help people with death and rebirth, or does it simply try to relieve the pain and avoid death.  Questions.

But whatever it is, we are obsessed with avoiding death — as most of the culture is — and that continues to be a block to transformation.

Where do we look to find comfort in embracing death — and choosing a new life?


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