Receiving ‘That’ Phone Call from a Friend: Thinking About Loss in the Trans Community

kate bornsteinDeja Nicole Greenlaw
deja nicole greenlaw

Deja Nicole Greenlaw

By: Deja Nicole Greenlaw*/TRT Columnist–

It happens. You get a call from your friend and they ask you if you are sitting down. At that point you know that you are going to hear something awful. As you sit there, not knowing anything yet, your mind spins and whirls at what is possibly going to be said. Then the message is delivered. Someone you both know just could not take it anymore and they’ve ended their life.

Now you lean back against your chair and begin to process what is being said to you. The shock, the feelings of disbelief, the questions, the search for the answers, the blaming of yourself about not picking up any clues, the anger within, the feelings of hopelessness, the realization of what happened and the resigned acceptance all come at you at once. It’s very confusing and very uncomfortable, but then suddenly the grief hits you like a ton of bricks. You now cannot think of anything else. You feel helpless. You cry.

I just received one of these calls just a few weeks ago. What made it extra rough was the fact that the newly deceased was a young transman who never even made it to high school. It was devastating news and completely caught everyone off guard. This young man’s whole life was in front of him and things were going seemingly well. His future looked bright and things seemed to be going his way.

You never know though. You never know what someone is carrying within themselves. You never know the pains they have, the hopelessness they feel and the events leading up to tragedy. This young man evidently had more than he could bear and he succumbed. We all wondered why? What happened? What were the events leading up to this? How could this ever happen? We don’t really know the answers to any of these questions, but we probably have a pretty good idea if we think about it.

Let’s face it, being trans is not easy. Being born as a physical female but really feeling male inside is not an easy thing to deal with especially when you are young. Your breasts develop, your hips widen, and your menstrual cycle begins. These things must be terrifying to you, as a young male, but you are determined to be who you are. You go to school or to work and everyone who knew you as female now sees you as male. Yes, of course there are going to be wonderful supporters, but there are also going to be those who will disassociate from you, dislike you, make fun of you and even bully you.

I grew up as a male and I remember the tough guys who loved to intimidate, humiliate and beat others up. I was fearful of those tough guys and I avoided them as much as I could. I can only imagine what it’s like to be a young transman who comes in contact with these bullies. “So you think that you’re a man? Hey! I’m talking to you! You need to learn a few things about being a man! Come over here, girlie! I’ll show you what it’s like to be a man!” Then the physical beatings begin. It’s even worse when there are others watching you get beat up and no one helps you. Sometimes they even cheer the bully.

Besides being born with a body that wants to give you breasts, you are also born with a body that gives you the wrong genitals. Can you imagine having the wrong genitals? It’s a horrible feeling. Lots of transmen hate their bodies and some have issues with bulimia.

Then there is dating. Dating as a male without male genitals can be awkward. Yes, there are people that do not mind, but they have friends and relatives that might not understand. I have known of a couple of situations where young couples are broken up because the parents of the non-trans person find out that the new boyfriend is trans and they forbid their child to date the boy.

When you take all of these issues and you put them into the mind of a young man, you can see how difficult life must be for him and how he could get discouraged and look for a way out. Still, when it’s someone you know, it’s very hard to accept. It’s very, very hard to accept. I hate these phone calls.

*Deja Nicole Greenlaw is a local transwoman who has 3 grown children and works at 3M. She can be contacted at


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