not in Primary anymore

trans lives matter. even the living ones. even the ordinary ones.

Recently, I’ve noticed transgender issues a lot in the news and on social media.

On the one hand, it’s a good thing! Over the past couple of years, trans girls have been in Rolling Stone, there have been trans actresses in hugely popular TV shows, Katie Couric has been downright educated and there’s been countless projects aimed at helping transgender people do everything from pee in safety to find a place to live.

The problem comes from one simple fact: a vast majority of these victories will happen, be shared on social media for a while, maybe they’ll be seen by people already savvy to transgender issues, and then they burn out.  With the exception of Orange is The New Black and Laverne Cox’s involvement, most people I know don’t even remember the rest of the things I listed or, in some cases, haven’t even heard of them.

You know what everyone does remember for a long time?  Trans death.

Off the top of my head, I can name 12 people who fall under the transgender umbrella who have died this year, 9 of whom were murdered.  There have been countless more that have been murdered or who committed suicide that just didn’t come to my attention, I’m sure.  And I’m not just talking about a 12 month period; I’m talking about in the calendar year 2015.

Each and every one of these deaths are tragic and deserve respect, though I’ve noticed a really disturbing pattern with these deaths.

Every time a trans individual is found dead, there’s an initial point of mourning in the transgender community.  We feel the loss of our brother, our sister or our sibling.  Some of us more than others.  After it’s rippled through the transgender community it gets to the rest of the LGBTQIA community and then trickles into mainstream media if the story has already taken over tumblr and twitter already.

When the news trickles into the rest of the community you’ll see outpourings of love from community members and impassioned speeches from our cisgender allies talking about how trans lives matter, trans suicide is horrible and we need to break down a system that systematically works against our transgender population.  These discussions will go for 1 or 2 weeks for a normal story, upwards of a month if it really caused an effect.

And then…nothing.  Silence.  Static on the radio.  People just get back to their lives as if nothing had ever actually happened.  Maybe someone will make a remark about how bad it is that there has been so much death this year, but after that it’s the big elephant in the room.

I understand why this is.  After all, why would someone want to think about a corpse when they’re ordering a wedding cake?

After the silence, sometimes a trans celebrity will say something profound, or they’ll be especially sassy.  Maybe they’ll even make a biting political commentary.  People might remark on it, it might trend on facebook for a weekend.  And then more of the same silence.

Meanwhile, average transgender people live their daily lives, still having to deal with everything from rude stares from coworkers to not being allowed to use a public restroom to being denied jobs or housing over your gender identity.  Nonbinary identities are even mocked in supposedly liberal and intersectional circles.  Ballot measures are proposed giving transgender people protections along with the rest of the LGBTQIA community, and then the bill is carefully reworded to remove all protections for gender identity.  After all, we can’t have the weird ones make bills difficult to pass.  And then the bill passes, and suddenly it’s a great boon for everyone in the queer community.  Suddenly, we’ve all achieved equality.  The work is done.  It is well.

We need to remember our trans brothers, sisters and siblings.  We need to remember all the Leelahs and Blakes and Tajas and Tys and Yazmins and countless other transgender people who have died.  We need to look up to celebrities, to all the Lavernes and Janets and Carmens and Sylvias that make a change in the national dialogue.

And then we need to take that remembrance, and take that veneration, and use it to work in our own communities, help our own loved ones and build our own equality.  We need to remember that all trans lives matter.  Even the living ones.  Even the ordinary ones.

23 Responses to “trans lives matter. even the living ones. even the ordinary ones.”

      • Katherine

        “All Trans Lives Matters” certainly seems to imply an emphasis that trans lives matter MORE than other lives. It’s kind of like in Orwell’s Animal Farm: “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”

    • Laura

      Katherine, please stop being an asshole.
      “All lives matter” — when this phrase actually becomes true, then we won’t have to periodically remind society that black lives matter and trans lives matter. Let’s please stop pretending that certain individuals aren’t targeted for being different — that groups of people are actually marginalized, treated unfairly, ridiculed, even murdered. When the author states that “trans lives matter,” it’s not meant to imply that trans lives matter more than others — it’s meant to remind a society that seems to forget and/or refuses to acknowledge it.

      • Anonymous

        “when this phrase actually becomes true” So you are saying it isn’t true? As in all lives are not equal? As in all lives don’t matter? There really are some out there that don’t? Because thats what your saying. Whether people ACT as though all lives matter is a different issue. Truth doesn’t change based on people’s opinion of it. But you said that the phrase “all lives matter” isn’t true. Thus you actually believe some lives are lesser to others. I’m pretty sure thats not a good ideology. I’m sure you were intending the opposite, but you should try to do a better job of conveying that through language. Precision on language is a great way to not cause confusion. And you know, make sure you communicate what you actually mean.

      • Katherine

        Classy with the name-calling. I’m definitely more willing to listen to your views when you exhibit that level of maturity.

        Tell me who exactly disagrees with the notion that “Black Lives Matter”? Tell me one specific person, please.

    • Brianna

      Actually, saying that all trans lives matters doesn’t emphasize that they matter more at all. You see, there’s this thing in the community where my demographic is killed and harassed more than cisgender people, which kind of implies that people think we matter less. Saying that trans lives matter implies that, well, trans lives matter…even though people seem to think we don’t.

  1. musicalheart88

    “Leelah” selfishly ran in front of a a vehicle, forcing someone else to be the “cause” of his death. It is the most cowardly, selfish and rude way to commit suicide in my opinion. Not only are you damaging your family and their mental/emotional health by killing yourself, you’re going to give someone else, completely unrelated to your situation PTSD. That poor individual is going to spend the rest of their life haunted by you ending yours under their vehicle. And though it is totally not their fault, they will wonder if they could have done anything that would have kept you from dying. Could they have slowed down more? Gone a different way? They didn’t know you. They didn’t know your situation. There is literally NOTHING they could have done to help you as an individual, yet you put this huge burden on them. Just because you want to die. And can’t think of a better way. That is freaking selfish. “Leelah” is not a hero. He is not anyone that should be praised or memorialized as a “victim.” In his death, he was not the victim. He chose death. HIS CHOICE. And the poor driver was a victim of his selfish choice.

    • Brianna

      Leelah’s pronouns are feminine (she/her/hers). You can have your opinion about her all you’d like, but I’d ask that you use the correct pronouns for her.

      • Katherine

        What makes someone a man or a woman? Does what he/she FEEL determine that?

        I see you completely ignore the substance of Musical Heart’s comments. Do you think Leelah is a hero? Do you agree with Leelah’s choice to commit suicide?

      • musicalheart88

        You don’t get to choose your pronouns. Just like you don’t get to choose what race or species you are. Just as you don’t get to choose if you have mental illness. Which is what Josh had, considering he decided his perfectly healthy body was defunct and he was attention-seeking suicidal. You are born with the body you have. You don’t get to insist everyone treat you as you are not. Should we start treating Furries like real animals? Since some of the ones I met insisted they really were wolves/cats? No, they are human. Even though in their mind they “felt” they really were animals and asked to be treated as such. It’s called mental illness. So no. I’m not going to play along with the delusion. That is unhealthy and only contributes to the psychosis. Josh was a boy. And I’m going to respect him as a human by calling him what he was. And I will respect his living family by calling him what he was; their son and brother.

  2. Joshua Clingo

    Excellent article.

    Social inertia is real, and I think I’m a bit more optimistic about where we’re headed in spite of the way the fervor dies down after some big push. Historically, social progression starts with writers and is quietly passed around the most empathetic/sympathetic. Eventually, the progressive concept (in this case, that transgender people both exist and have rights) makes its way into mainstream discussion, flaring up and dying down. Eventually, we get used to the idea and empathy wins out. Everyone just pretends/believes that we’ve always understood. See also: Race and the Priesthood

    For much of civilization, progression took several generations to win out, but we’ve actually been able to see real change in our lifetimes with regard to LGBT rights, feminism, and so on. People are gradually getting used to the underlying concept, which is that everyone is worthy of respect and that we’re all the same person with different situations.

    Anyway, this is not to say that we should let things die down, but just that we should continue to be optimistic because we’re making a real effort on many fronts. But social inertia is real.

  3. Anonymous

    What Laura means is that society doesn’t currently believe that all people are equal. Which is why we need to keep saying that trans people are equal, or black people are, etc. By overruling that statement and saying that all people are equal, you are trivializing the fact that certain people are not treated equally.

    As for people’s comments on Leelah, she was female. Respect her memory, please. It’s people like you that made her feel like she had to die. As for her stepping in front of a car, she probably thought that was the only option she had. It may seem selfish, but that’s what depression does to you. I’m not going to blame someone for wanting to make their life better, and in a twisted way, that’s what she was trying to do. As for calling her a boy, there is scientific evidence for physiological, not just mental, differences between cisgender and transgender people of the same ‘sex’ (a different conversation altogether). So your argument is invalid.

    Thanks for the article Brianna 🙂 Sorry you had to deal with these comments.

  4. Laura

    Katherine (and the other person who replied) — ask yourselves this: do YOU believe that trans lives matter? Do individuals who disrespect the memory of trans people by shaming them and refusing to call them by the proper pronouns really believe that trans lives matter? When people refuse to acknowledge not only the tragic death of trans people, but the lives they lived as trans people, do people really believe that trans lives matter?

    It’s also heartless to assume that Leelah “selfishly committed suicide.” Let’s please not generalize mental illness, or trivialize the pain someone may have felt when treated as if they had no place in society. Anyway, I really did appreciate this article. This post, and some of the comments, are reminders that we still have a long way to go as a society in regards to trans people and other marginalized groups.

    • Anonymous

      You must make furries very happy. Because, by your logic, you clearly must be one of those people who would treat them like the animal they earnestly feel they are. You would introduce them as a wolf, you would insist people call them a wolf and so on. Same with people who feel they are actually a different race. You know, those who feel they are actually a black woman when they were born a white woman. Or what about those who feel they are a black woman when they were born into a white male body. Maybe thats more comfortable for you. They must love how you defend people’s ability to insist everyone treat them as they “feel” or think they should be. Heck, lets just push this all the way, pedophiles probably love your argument. They earnestly feel sexual attraction to children. And yet we don’t accept that.
      There are reasons we don’t just say “Yeah, chose whatever you want, be whatever you want.” But if you are saying that we should accept whatever you say you are, despite the biological evidence that you are not, then I guess we should start treating the kids who want to be cats and dogs like animals. And the adults who feel the same.

      Also, no, Josh knew jumping in front of a vehicle was not the “only option” for suicide. When you are actually suicidal, you start thinking about how you want to do it, what legacy you want to leave behind. Many people chose an option that they feel will be as harmless as possible for those who they leave behind. A lot of women chose pills, and since Josh had pills…I’m surprised he didn’t use those. Except I’m not. Because men generally chose more violent suicides. And Josh chose one of the most violent and in your face suicides you can. Also, his note, set to be made public shows his method was primarily for the attention it would bring him after his death. He was doing it to spite his parents. His note cursed his parents and blamed them. Most people who honestly just want to die either don’t care about those around them and are in a state of apathy where they don’t care about the misery or happiness of those they leave behind, or they want people to still be happy despite feeling they personally can not. Josh instead was all about making his death as painful as possible for his parents. He wanted to be counted as one of those transgender deaths. That is why he killed himself. Because he was depressed, but more so, because he was an angry hormonal teenage boy who didn’t like that his parents disagreed with him and wouldn’t support his mental illness. He disliked how little influence he seemed to have in the world. He didn’t like that despite being allowed again on social media and contact with his friends, those friends didn’t treat him exactly how he wanted to be. So his death was a big middle finger to everyone around him and a shout to pay attention to him, because kids now days know that suicide will get you attention.

      • Laura

        Wow, I just wasted my time reading a lengthy straw man response that didn’t actually answer my question…
        I’ll end with this: in regards to your views on suicide, you truly disgust me. I’ve worked with people in psychiatric hospitals and crisis lines — suicide is not something we should ever fucking trivialize or make assumptions about. If you ever find yourself at the end of your rope, I sure hope there are people around you willing to give you the compassion and decency you’ve been unwilling to show.

    • Katherine

      Of COURSE I believe that trans lives matter. It’s time for you to stop thinking of yourself as morally superior and the only ones that care about human decency.

      You say “she” and “her” are proper pronouns for this individual. What is it that makes this so? Because that is what Leelah/ Josh felt? Does what we feel determine who we are?

      I was born Caucasian. I cannot just say to hell with biology, I am now a black woman. Just because a person says or thinks a certain way doesn’t mean that that’s true. It’s not disrespectful to say Josh was a man; it is fact.

  5. musicalheart88

    Well, you never answered whether we should treat furries who feel like animals as if they actually are animals.
    For the record, of course “trans lives” matter. All lives matter.
    Also, already been depressed and suicidal. Sooooo…yeah. I know the mentality pretty well. Spent plenty of time talking with various people about their methods and reasoning behind it. So I think I know where Josh was coming from. The angry guy who wants to go out with a bang is pretty easy to spot.

    • sodonemormon

      Is “furries” a mental condition or a condition inborn into an individual like individuals that are LBGT?

      your question is ridiculous

  6. Ashley

    To the author – I am so sorry that people are being so insensitive and disgusting on such a beautiful piece.
    To the people being insensitive – how can you not understand that you are the reason it’s so hard for trans people to exist in peace? How destructive your comments are? How dare you assume you know more about how someone experiences their own life than they do? If someone opens up and tells you how they really feel, why do you think it’s okay to tell them they’re wrong? Why is it so hard to accept that some people experience gender differently than you? Don’t answer any of these questions, I don’t want to hear them. Open your mind a bit and stop selfishly thinking that if an entire group of people say that what they experience is different than what you experience they all must be lying, attention seeking, and confused. People don’t commit suicide because they want attention, that doesn’t make sense. They might do it because their existence is questioned and invalidated by people who know nothing about it and refuse to open their hearts though, so think about the consequences of your words. You might be hurting the ones you love.

  7. sodonemormon

    It doesnt sound like a lot of you commentators understand what transgender even means. Unless you completely dont agree with doctors and other medical professionals like psychiatrists. Being Transgender is NOT a mental illness its a real thing that happens in the womb.

    This is not just a story about a boy that wants to play with barbies and just wear dresses……its about a boy who has the brain of a girl trapped in the body of a boy. It also can happen with girls that have a brain of a boy in the body of a girl.

    Stop being judgmental to things that are inborn into people!

    And to compare gender identity with “furries” is a real slap in the face. Its like saying homosexuals are into bestiality. You ladies sound like ignorant bigots.

    Please do some simple internet research on the subject of transgender/body dysmorphia. Even Dallin H Oaks made recent comments about Transgender was highly open to learning more about the problems.


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