By: Deja Nicole Greenlaw*/TRT Columnist—
It’s November and once again it is time for the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, TDOR, the day where we memorialize our brothers and sisters who have died in the past year. The TDOR was originally set aside to include only those trans people who were violently beaten and killed by the hands of others because of anti-trans hatred and prejudice. In the past few years, however, many TDORs have also included our brothers and sisters who have taken their own lives.
Some TDOR purists might object to include these folks who have taken their own lives, but many folks now see little difference between how each trans person died because both groups of folks have lost their lives due ultimately to hate and prejudice from others. Some were physically beaten and killed and some were mentally and emotionally killed.
Nonetheless, all were killed at the physical or emotional hands of others. In this column I want to focus on those who have taken their own lives ultimately because of anti-trans hatred and prejudice.
Statistics show that 41 percent of all trans people have attempted suicide. Many more have thought about it. Why is that? There are probably various reasons for each death. I cannot tell you exactly why. What I can tell you is that it’s not easy living in a world where others do not accept you—especially if they dismiss you, ridicule you, or blame you for causing trouble just by being who you are. Sometimes there comes a point where you just can’t take it anymore. Last year, Leelah Alcorn couldn’t take it anymore and stepped in front of a tractor-trailer on an interstate highway in Ohio. Last month, Ashley Hallstrom reached her limit and stepped in front of a dump trunk on a U.S. Highway in Utah. Many others have killed themselves in various other ways. This needs to stop. How can we stop this? What needs to be done?
As I mentioned earlier, I do not know exactly why these souls take their lives, but with myself being trans and based on my conversations online and in person with other trans folk, I have some thoughts about what the problems may be. I would say that the number one problem is not getting acceptance from others. When others do not accept you, they will exclude you from their lives. You may be called out for “being selfish” by being trans and, as a result, have been blamed for destroying family relationships. If you had just remained in the closet and remained in your assigned birth gender, the others may claim that things would have been okay. But, they also may claim that you insisted, in a narcissistic fashion in their eyes, to live your life as female, which resulted in causing damage to family relationships. My thought about the selfish part is: Who is really being selfish? Is it you for being who you are? Or is it them, for wanting you to be who they want you to be? If others would have simply accepted you for who you are then this particular problem may not even exist.
When others do not accept you, they will exclude you from their lives. You may be called out for “being selfish” by being trans and, as a result, have been blamed for destroying family relationships.
Some trans people have been mercilessly bullied and ridiculed, sometimes on a daily basis and especially in schools. This has to stop. Sometimes the bullying comes in the form of oppression due to religious beliefs. Sometimes, it comes from people who feel a need to bully. Either way, if the bullying stops then this may eliminate this particular problem.
Many trans people have been forced out of their families and friends’ lives and/or have lost their jobs because others do not want to accept them as trans people. They may even ridicule the trans person. As a result, the trans person may become withdrawn and may live a solitary existence. Living alone with limited contact with others may do strange things to your mind. You may feel like you are worthless and that you are a burden to society, which may prompt you to think you, may as well end your life. I can’t say for sure, but these are some of the thoughts that may run through your mind.
I don’t know if I may have the answers to stop the trans suicides, but I can offer this path which might help; being accepted by others and stopping the bullying, the ridiculing, and the blaming by others. How to get others to stop these behaviors would be the next step. If others would just not be so adamant about their hatred and prejudice of us, that just might be the solution. It just might be the way to save lives.
*Deja Nicole Greenlaw is a trans woman who has 3 grown children and is retired from 3M. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.