In many dictatorial states, people are “disapeared,” abducted out of sight.
Today is Transgender Day Of Remembrance and while the transpeople who have been murdered around the world are crimes to be acknowledged, I’m thinking of the transpeople who have just been disappeared.
There are so many reasons why transpeople disappear in the world. We are taught to make our own nature invisible at any cost to avoid the danger, stigma and abuse that comes with any transgender identification. We get very good at that disappearing trick, much to the detriment of both our own health and to societies development.
As I have pointed out, no young child dreams of being transgender. We may dream of being pretty or strong, fluid or determined, but our imaginings are of being someone who is seen and valued for who they are inside, for what they bring into the world.
It becomes obvious to us, though, that to show our heart we have to be what is identified as transgender in the world, crossing from the compulsory gender role we were assigned by dint of our birth sex to claim our own expression beyond convention and expectation. We don’t want to be transgender, but we do want to be authentic, true and congruent. Transgender is just what we have to be to do that.
We understand that to be who we dreamed of we have to make part of us invisible. Usually we start by making our heart invisible, struggling to succeed at the assigned role while venting our transgender nature through activities like drag or crossdressing, “just as a hobby.”
The next big dream is the dream of transsexualism where we hope that we can reshape our body so that our transgender nature disappears. We really want to believe in the magic of a “sex change,” a way that we can get our heart and our body aligned in a culturally acceptable way.
Both of these dreams are exhausting. To disappear part of us, be it our nature or our puberty takes an enormous amount of effort. We end up being tired, frustrated and shattered by the amount of effort it takes to hide in plain sight.
Every transperson in the world knows the cost of disappearing and the cost of being visible, and every damn day they have to balance those choices and pay those costs to exist in the world. We have to decide what part of us we want to try and kill off for the comfort of others, disappearing it deep into our darkest recesses.
We live with the bear in the closet, that ego voice which holds all of our fears and polices our choices, working to keep us small and invisible. Every day a little death, every day another denial.
For some, this choice is a real matter of life and death, as showing themselves can allow others to believe they have permission to destroy queers. For others, this choice is a matter of honour, respecting commitments made when we were trying to fit in. For all of us, this choice is an expensive one, keeping us having to lie and deny, especially to ourselves.
We understand that when we reveal ourselves people who have bought into simple, binary gender feel entitled to get crazy.
They may take it upon themselves to decide what part of our expression is real and what is a lie, removing the truth we struggled so hard to own in a blink.
They may decide that what they see as our contradictions gives them the right to mock, humiliate and torment us, defending their abuse by saying that we asked for it by crossing lines that they see as solid.
They may use the excuse that we need to be disappeared to protect children, trying to keep their kids away from even the possibility that being outside of compulsory gender boxes might be tolerated.
Worst, especially if they see part of themselves in us, some part they have tried to erase, something that attracts them, they may want to destroy us, attempting to disappear us in the same way that they have tried to disappear their own transcendent nature.
There is no surprise in understanding why transgender people work so hard and so destructively to disappear themselves, responding to the messages of the world that not being disappeared is just an invitation to pain and destruction, a call for others to disappear us.
There are transpeople in the world who have refused to disappear, who have faced the abuse, not only to tell their own shimmering truth but also to open up the world for others. Unless transpeople are visible, we cannot be a force in the world to make the world safer for others with hearts like ours.
On this Transgender Day Of Remembrance, though, I want to remember all the transpeople who were disappeared over centuries of dangerous oppression, all the transpeople who are still disappeared today, and all the transpeople who feel the scars and costs of having to be disappeared in their soul everyday.
Transpeople have been disappeared for too long, being asked to throw their own hearts on the too hard pile for the ease and comfort of those who benefited from firm separations between genders.
In cultures where gender is rigidly bipolar, rituals of gender crossing remind us of our continuous common humanity. Transpeople remind us that we are all just fundamentally human, that each of us have a right to shine in the world without the fear of being destroyed or disappeared.
Let us imagine the transcendent nature of humans shining out from under the shackles that try to disappear that beauty, imagining a world where people will be judged by the content of their character rather than on their reproductive biology.
I remember all the people who struggled to shine in the world, who still struggle to shine in the world, hoping for a world where those tender hearts can appear and be celebrated. When they appear to us, let us hold them as offerings to a universe that transcends simple conventions, a universe fuelled by deep connection and by love.
Wherever you are, however hidden, know that your nature can never be quashed, that it still appears to your creator and to us.
You appear beautiful.