By: Deja Nicole Greenlaw*/TRT Columnist—
Recently, I received a phone call from a friend to inform me that John, one of our trans brothers, had passed away and to ask me if I knew if he had any relatives. I remember talking with John many times, but I didn’t remember him ever mentioning his family, not once. I wasn’t sure if he had any family, or if he did, maybe he was not on speaking terms with them. We asked another trans man who has been John’s friend for years. The friend said he never heard John speak of any family.
My friend received the call about John because her number was found in John’s apartment by one of his neighbors. The neighbor didn’t know of any family members either. Evidently, John didn’t talk about his family at all. Come to think of it, some trans folk do not talk about their family that much, if at all. This is a problem because when the trans person dies, there are no family members to notify and no one to make the funeral and burial arrangements and to bring forth any possible insurance policies or a will. [pullquote]Usually, this situation becomes a stalemate, neither side willing to give in. A line is drawn and it may never be erased. The family ties are broken. Then, when the trans person dies, a situation such as John’s might occur.[/pullquote]
It isn’t unusual for trans brothers and sisters to not be on speaking terms with members of their family. Just as with any family, there are various reasons why family members don’t speak, but in the trans person’s family it could very well be because the trans person has decided to move forward and live in their true gender. The family members may refuse to even acknowledge the trans person’s existence. This breaks down the communication. The only way it can be reconnected is either for the family members to accept the trans person or for the trans person to detransition and go back to living in their birth gender. Usually, this situation becomes a stalemate, neither side willing to give in. A line is drawn and it may never be erased. The family ties are broken. Then, when the trans person dies, a situation such as John’s might occur.
One thing that could help avoid a situation like John’s is to have a will made out and an executor named who will carry out the wishes of the deceased. The will could list possessions and state what person or what group would be the recipient(s) of the possessions. It could also include any insurance policies, bank accounts, or any other source of money. The will could have the burial wishes of where and how to be buried or where they’d like their ashes to be scattered. Everyone should have a will and name an executor, even if they are young. You never know when your time will be up. [pullquote]Everyone should have a will and name an executor, even if they are young. You never know when your time will be up. [/pullquote]
When I heard of John’s passing, the first thing that came to mind was that he may have taken his own life. Of course, I have no knowledge of how he died but suicide is a possibility. I do know that too many trans people do take their lives due to various reasons. Sometimes it may be because they have no family members who will acknowledge them, let alone accept and love them. Sometimes the family members might say things to a trans person that are quite harsh. I’ve heard of comments from family members who have warned a trans woman to not ever show up in their home wearing a dress, that there is no such thing as transgender, and that no one will ever love the trans person and that the trans person will die all alone. Yes, these comments are from family members. These are very tough words that can hurt and can permanently exclude the trans person from the family. It’s no wonder that some trans folk never want to talk about their family. It’s sad because sometimes, when the world seems to be against you, all you have is your family, but in some trans people’s cases, sometimes you don’t even have that.
This is November, the month of the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR). This is the month where we remember our fallen trans brothers and sisters who have died violently at the hands of others. We also remember those trans folk who have taken their own lives because it was too much for them to keep on living. Any trans person who dies for any reason should be remembered. We will remember John at our TDoR.
*Deja Nicole Greenlaw is a local transwoman who has three grown children and works at 3M. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.