The career of Danica Roem, the first openly transgender woman to win election to Viriginia’s House of Delegates or the glamorous lives of Laverne Cox or Caitlyn Jenner are not typical of most transgenders. They may be highly visible, but most transsexuals keep lower profiles. Why?
They are discriminated against by society and families and not understood by doctors who are untrained to deal with their unique issues. In this past year alone:
· Twenty-five transgender people have been violently killed in 2017, more than during any other recorded year in the past decade. The Human Rights Commission said 84% of victims were people of color and 80% identified as female. This year, there were two deaths within forty-eight hours in New Orleans.
· Suicide attempts are alarmingly common among transgender individuals. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and The Williams Institute which analyzed results from The National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 2016, forty-one percent try to kill themselves at some point in their lives, compared with 4.6% of the general public.
I once interviewed J.R. Vilari, born Jennifer Rebecca in Staten Island, New York, who told me that finding out about the concept of transgender saved his life. He always felt mismatched with his body. He confessed that if he hadn’t known about how people like himself can actually transition from female to male, he would have probably committed suicide. Not so uncommon!
Jennifer Finney Boylan, author of She’s Not There: A Life In Two Genders ( 2013) writes in that memoir about how on Cape Breton Island, at the far northern edge, she climbed up a mountain. It was there that she contemplated suicide in the ocean below. But a fierce gale blowing into her body kept her from falling, blowing her backwards onto moss.
Last month, transgenders who want to serve in the military were dealt a blow by President Trump’s ban. Only those transgenders who are currently in the military and therefore “grandfathered” can serve. It reminds one of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Gavin Grimm, like other students, was crestfallen when Betsy DeVos, Education Secretary, confirmed that the Education Department is no longer investigating civil rights complaints from transgender students barred from school bathrooms that match their gender identity. DeVos said states and individual school districts should be able to determine how to accommodate transgender students. Title IX didn’t obligate schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice, only prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.
This can be regarded as stigmatization that can result in anxiety and depression for the transgender whose sexual identity is not aligned with his birth. Acceptance and kindness, especially by parents, can prevent the high stress levels that transsexuals have. Make it visible every day.