Safe To Grow

I watched a video some local t-girls made of their night powl through consignment shops and bars.

They ended by stopping outside a closed local gay bar and talking about buying it to be opened as a trans-friendly space.

In their imaginations, they wanted it to be open for new girls so they could have somewhere to come out.

My dream is different.

I want a place that is safe enough to bring out old trannys.

I imagine somewhere that the experience of years can be brought out and shared.

This is no small challenge.

Transpeople who have achieved some level of assimilation in their lives also have something to lose.

It’s easy for us to believe that we have claimed a life based on being silent about our biology, our history, our transgression, our queerness, and breaking that silence risks everything we have gained.

I remember being asked by a WBT person what I would say about a woman who had a husband, who had mothered a family, who had a network of girlfriends.  Wasn’t she really a woman?

Yes, I agreed.  And really proof that it is the choices you make that define your life, and not your birth sex.  She proves that being a woman is about being a woman, and not about what is between your legs, now or in the past.

The visible trans experience is usually all about the adolescent and the iconoclastic transpeople.

Wouldn’t it be lovely if the assimilated transpeople also had a voice, had a place to share?

But they know the cost.  They won’t just jump into interviews, expose themselves to abuse and pressure.  They have been there and done that.

And much of that pressure comes from newly out or not out transpeople.  You see, they live in the “should” of trans, the claiming experience, rather than in the reality of trans, the life experience.

I have seen new transsexuals claim that they would never go back, and dismiss transpeople who live complicated lives in order to satisfy their obligations.   In a film I even saw a leader dismiss any transwomen who let their teenage kids call them “Dad.”

I have seen crossdressers assert that anyone assigned as male at birth must be like them, and gay men assume that transsexual women are “in drag.”

And when mature transpeople share their experiences, and the limits of them, I have seen them shouted down by baby trannys who need to hold onto their dreams.

There is a reason that so many transpeople walk away from the structures of the interlocking communities around trans as they mature.   There is little point fighting the same old fights and exposing yourself to the same old attacks when you can focus on the much more important and nuanced job of building a graceful & potent life.

For a number of reasons, this notion is hard to explain to transpeople who are just coming out, or who have resisted transforming and assimilating.  I suspect these are the same reasons it’s hard for adults and teenagers to be peers; they have different goals and different experience.  Stories only stay simple until they are not simple anymore, and then they are twisted, detailed, challenging and real.

I don’t imagine making safe space for people to come out.

Rather I imagine making safe space for people to grow up.

And that means respect for challenges and nuance, means honoring not just our dreams but also our scars.

That seems a long way away, though.

Unanchored Death

On a list, someone offered a link to this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mM–vOZZBcA

I responded:

I guess that I am confused.

The video asserts that the average rate of suicide is 3 people per 100,000 people.  I’m guessing, because it is not stated, that is per year in the United States.

It then says that the “Transgender Transsexual” suicide rate is 31%. Assuming that this means people who identify as transgender or transsexual, that number is difficult.

If this is related to the first fact, does this mean almost a third of those who identify as transgender or transsexual kill themselves every year?   While I do know people who have committed suicide, and know that it is a serious problem for our population, I don’t know that 31% kill themselves every year.

Even if that is a lifetime figure, do 31% of TG/TS identified people really take their own lives?  If that is true, we should have many more reports on this list and in transmedia about those who have ended their lives.

And the assertion that 50% of transsexuals have a suicide attempt before their 20th birthday;  where does that statistic come from?

For me personally, the relationship between death and transgender is profound.   Death is required for rebirth. We have to find the death of the expectations and assumptions placed on us before we can break through and free who we know ourselves to be.

For some, the pain and weight of social stigma does lead to the death of the body, either by our own hand, by violence, or just by the kinds of choices we are lead to make.  It might be hormones or injectable silicone, or it might be heart disease and diabetes from the neglect and denial of our bodies, all triggered by enormous levels of stress from stigma and lack of effective support systems.  The requirement of denial does have a price.

I wrote my first suicide note over thirty years ago now.  I needed to explore what needed to die.  In that time, however, I personally haven’t had one suicide attempt.   Stress and denial, however, are claiming their price on my body.

Yes, death and transgender have a profound relationship.   The experience of death, of having to attempt to kill off something inside, of being attacked for being who we are, for the expectation that death is part of our eventual rebirth, well, that’s a huge deal.

Yes, transpeople are forced to live closer to death than most in this culture, and that can have an enormous price in our lives.

I’m just not sure that experience can be expressed in unanchored statistics.

It seems woven into our queer lives, and not the quantified data of a defined group.