This Friday, a day to honor those transgender men and women who have lost their lives at the hand of hate, is marked by a number of remembrance events across the globe, but what will take place in the heart of every transgender person, is a moment of reflection on how so very easily they could have been included in the shockingly high death toll.
The sad truth is, this personal moment is not exclusive to November 20th. I, like many others, live perpetually is a state of fear of the reaction from those who do not support my identity.
My sheltered Midwestern rearing didn't lend itself to much exposure to diversity, so when I first began to realize I was different, I really had no idea how very different I actually was. I traveled the all too familiar road of first identifying as bisexual, then gay, then bi again and finally just downright confused. I so badly longed for that accurate all-encompassing label, but it wasn't until I was in my early twenties that my therapist first asked if I might be transgender. To this I could but only respond, "Transgender? What's that?"
An epiphany of sorts followed my research of the subject. I felt like everything I read was specifically speaking to me. I finally got it... lastly I realized the proverbial box I was destined for. But wait! If people judged me for being gay in Middle America, what would they make of a transgender girl? Was I doomed to a life of scrutiny and persecution? It was at that point I found the solution to my dissonance... I'd take what I thought was the path of least resistance... I'd aim for passing.
At the time I was a full-time student from a family supportive and well-off enough to ensure I went to the best doctors and had any treatment I deemed necessary. So what better opportunity than to make my real-life magic act come to fruition. With my decision made, you could almost hear a circus barker announcing, "Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, you're about to witness the show of your life! With the assistance of modern science, I will transform a masculine looking man into a beautiful woman, right before your very eyes!"
Of course this magic act wasn't easy or instantaneous by any means. If it wasn't the reaction to the hormones it was the pain from the surgeries. If not the physical pain it was the emotional repercussion of shutting myself in the house, cutting off from the outside world, taking the time to get everything perfect, all awaiting my big reveal. Because if I wasn't perfect, then someone might know... someone might realize my truth. I had to be certain I had the perfect voice, was healed to have the perfect face, starved myself so that my muscle mass would eat itself away leaving only the perfect female body. Well, with the passage of a relatively short bit of time, only the minimum of what my body would need to catch up to my mind's already concrete plan, there I was, exactly what I wanted... a head turning beautiful female that no one would ever know was transgender... or more poignantly, no one would ever have to know.
It took quite a while for me to realize what I had allowed myself to do, and why I did it. The path I took skipped one integral moment of development. Although I came to rightly realize that I was meant to be a woman, I did not allow myself to accept that I was transgender. Moreover, the way I physically transitioned allowed for me to reinforce this idea that being transgender wasn't good enough. That who I am is shameful and not something one should advertise. This caused me to constantly live in fear of being discovered.
I share this story in hopes that it lends a bit of understanding as to how fear can guide a transgender person's life. The way fear will manifest itself is unique to each person, but no matter how, it has caused each of us, and our loved ones, to account for it from the point when it's first realized that our gender identity is divergent from the norm, through our transition, and it ultimately remains the constant for nearly every day that follows.
There is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, nothing that should be hidden or denied, about being transgender. No one should have to live a life filled with fear or shame. So come Friday, both honor those lives cut short by hate, as well as commit to fighting that which empowers fear.