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.

3 thoughts on “Unanchored Death”

  1. A response to the list:

    Years ago, I met a doctor who had his license revoked and was teaching.

    He was trying to deal with that, and as the cracks formed, his trans nature was also coming to the top.

    We met at Ginger Man, him trying to get over sitting across from someone who looked like a transwoman, and he opened up about how he just wanted to save his family from the pain and shame.

    I asked why he got to make that decision for his daughter, deciding she would be better off without him.

    He got that. He wanted her to make her own choices.

    I suggested that he play with suicide notes, saying that he had to face the death in his life before he could own the life. His work had died, his daughter was no longer little, his marriage was suffering.

    He told his therapist my suggestion.

    She was shocked, shocked.

    How dare anyone suggest that people look at the death in their lives, look at what has died and must be mourned?

    We didn’t speak again.

    A few months later, he deliberately steered his car into a lane of oncoming traffic.

    Thankfully, he didn’t hurt anyone else, and wasn’t severely hurt when he hit an abutment.

    He was then institutionalized, where he could face the death of what he worked so hard to project in the world, a manly doctor with no cracks.

    And somewhere he learned to face the world as just another cracked person.

    Facing death is important to rebirth.

    And I have no doubt that there us a great deal of suicidal ideation in our population.

    Thank you to Mona and the team for trying to get a handle on it, some real numbers that can inform.

    But, still, do unanchored statistics really help explain anything? I don’t think so.

    Tell your story.

    Talk about your experience of how you faced the experience of wanting to die, how you faced the experience of feeling you were being killed.

    It is a way we take care of each other and help each other survive in the face of stigma & shaming.

    But if you say 31% transsexual suicide, make sure that number is grounded, and just doesn’t cloud the issue.

  2. The best scientific study we have is from the Scottish Office surveying GLBT youth in Northern Ireland.

    25% of gays had self-harmed by age 20.
    50% of trans kids had self-harmed by age 20.

    This is in agreement with many other, less scientifically rigorous surveys.

    “In 1989, the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued its “Report on the Secretary’s Task Force on Youth Suicide,” which found that “A majority of suicide attempts by homosexuals occur during their youth, and gay youth are 2 to 3 times more likely to attempt suicide than other young people. They may comprise up to 30 percent of (the estimated 5,000) completed youth suicides annually.”

    The report was suppressed because it conflicted with political beliefs of the time. Rep William Dannemeyer (R CA) called for then-president Bush to “dismiss from public service all persons still employed who concocted this homosexual pledge of allegiance and sealed the lid on these misjudgments for good.” HHS Secretary Louis Sullivan wrote in a letter to Dannemeyer that the study “undermined the institution of the family.”

    “The findings of the report were leaked to the press and finally released. Other studies confirm these findings. Gary Remafedi, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Minnesota, and author of Death by Denial: Studies of Attempted and Completed Suicide in Gay and Lesbian and Bisexual Youth, found in a 1991 study of 150 gay and lesbian youths in Minneapolis, more than 30% said they had attempted suicide at least once as a teenager.”

    From a website dealing with suicidal ideation amongst trans people:
    “In a 5 year period here this site handled 78,800 suicidal crises online. They were of 3 types. Type 3 being suicide ideation, type 2 being suicide ideation with a plan and Type 1 being actual suicide attempts.

    Type 3 = 46933 Type 2 = 20238 Type 1= 11629”

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