The Transitive Property: Why Transgender Awareness Week Is Important

Feb. 28, 2011, 12:28 a.m.

The Transitive Property: Why Transgender Awareness Week Is ImportantThis week is Transgender Awareness Week at Stanford, and of course, I love it when people are aware of me. But I feel like whenever I write a column during a week that is important for LGBT issues, I always end up writing about something depressing. When I was younger, the only transgender people I heard about were the ones who had been wronged, who had been murdered. The lesson I learned as a young child, watching the news and reading the newspapers, was that transgender people are bad, deserving the things that come to them. As I grew up, I was so scared to be myself, so scared that if anybody found out about me, that I’d end up that way too. And I’m not going to lie, that impression left on me during those childhood days still hasn’t left me. There are days when I get out of bed sad and think how easy and great and convenient my life would be if I had just been born with, you know, the “right” parts, that I’d meet an early end because I put myself too far out there.

But this week is not the week to get depressed. For me, Transgender Awareness Week is important because it’s a reminder to me that yes, my life has been unconventional, but that doesn’t mean it’s not legitimate, or that it’s not valid — my humanity and masculinity are simply a bit different than the standard deviation. A week like Transgender Awareness Week gives me the opportunity to reflect on myself, to embrace my own identity. It’s a reminder that the transgender community — a community that I am proud to be part of — contributes to the richness and diversity of both the queer and general populations.

The primary reason for this week is to celebrate us, to know that there are people like me who thrive and who are happy, who deserve to be happy — because sadly, there isn’t enough of that message out there. The “T” in LGBT is heavily marginalized, especially in months and weeks dedicated to LGBT issues. In LGBT awareness weeks, there is usually only one event, if any, dedicated to transgender events. One event is not enough to express how diverse the transgender community is. To have a whole week to people like me? It’s empowering. I’m special and valid enough to be celebrated. And that means a lot to me.

But how is Transgender Awareness Week important for you, my reader? It’s an opportunity to be educated, to learn about a marginalized and often silenced small but potent slice of the general population. This week isn’t just a week to become aware of transgender people. To be aware is not enough. If we’re going to change things, we need to do something about it. We need to take action and get people’s attention. I have several propositions for you: go to at least one event (they’re going on all week, so you have no excuse). Get educated. Start a conversation with a friend. Forward this column to someone you know. As I said last week, the transgender voice has been marginalized for far too long. That’s what Transgender Awareness Week is for — to provide a space for us to speak for ourselves. And your job is to listen. I promise we’ll make it interesting.

There is still lot of work to be done. Recently the Gay and Lesbian Task Force released a report on transgender discrimination, titled “Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey.” According to the report, transgender people are four times more likely to live in poverty compared to their non-transgender counterparts and are two times more likely to be unemployed. One fifth of transgender respondents also reported homelessness during some point of their lives — and perhaps the most frightening of statistics, 41 percent of respondents reported to have attempted suicide, compared to 1.6 percent of the general population. There is a sad truth out there — there is still change that needs to be made. I hope one day, I can look back years from now and remember these sad statistics as something from the distant past. I hope that by that time, in years ahead, that transgender people are more accepted, that we no longer have to justify our existence and we can be regarded as people. It’s a long way off, but hey, one step at a time.

Yes, many transgender people do suffer, but the other side of that coin is that we come out of that process stronger. And this week is dedicated to our strength, to our perseverance, to our bravery in that we are willing to live as we are. And believe me, that’s not celebrated enough.


Cristopher thinks you should hug a transgender person this week. E-mail him at [email protected].

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