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Trans Bodies Are Not a Halloween Costume

It's easy to say it's "just a costume," and at the end of the night, you can take it off. But we can't take off our transness, and we will continue having to live with the consequences of the subtle, casual hatred your costume embodies.
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The days are getting shorter, the smell of pumpkin spice lattes is heavy in the air, the leaves would be changing color if this wasn't Florida and the shop windows are crawling with spooky delights. Yes, the signs are all here. Halloween is at hand!

Hands down, this is my favorite holiday of the year. Blame the nerd in me, I suppose, but I know I'm not the only one who loves the excuse to play dress-up in public without the weird stares at least once a year. It's fun to pretend to be someone, or something else for a night, and costumes run a gamut as wide as the human imagination. With such a variety of fun, frightening and even sexy ensembles to choose from, it's disappointing to see that tired stereotypes and lazy hatred still manage to find a way to the store shelves.

That's right. I'm talking about the "Call Me Caitlyn" costume. Now, it probably feels like I'm a little late to the game on this one. People have been talking about how offensive and harmful it is for at least two months, but stay with me, because I'm not going to waste your valuable time with all of the very valid points you've already heard. As a Halloween fanatic who spends months in advance perfecting my ensemble, my biggest beef with this costume is that it's entirely lazy and uninspired.

It's boring, uninteresting and completely trite.

You might find your transmisogyny witty, but trust me, you're the only one, and you're far from doing anything new. Transphobic men have been using Halloween as an excuse to dress up as a "tr*nny" since long before Caitlyn Jenner came along. As a trans woman of color, I don't get the joke. There's nothing funny about facing the realities of homelessness and employment discrimination, and losing your family and friends, and so much more just to be who you are. There's nothing funny about being treated like some kind of dangerous sexual deviant on the basis of your gender, and there's absolutely nothing funny about the prospect of being murdered just for being born different.

Maybe that's an idea though. I get it, you want to dress as a trans woman, but we know that's not funny, so why not actually put in some effort and make it scary? This is Halloween after all. You could dress as a trans murder victim. Believe me, any of us can tell you how frightening that is. This is the stuff our nightmares are made of, and with good reason. At least 23 transgender women have been murdered in the United States this year alone, and those are only the ones we know about.

Of course most people who aren't trans aren't even aware of that. Our deaths are invariably downplayed, ignored, erased and justified. You might be lucky enough to catch one or two local articles with titles like "Man Found Dead In a Dress," When a much more accurate title would be "Transgender Woman Found Dead With Multiple Gunshots to the Face," usually including some statement from the police that any potential motive is beyond the scope of their imaginations, and that the death is not being considered the result of a hate crime.

But we know better, because in every case we learn better. The signs are there plain as day. Our bodies have been found burned, mutiliated beyond recognition with knife and bullet wounds, run over multiple times and even dismembered and boiled into a stew. What's even more horrifying is that the murderers are seldom held accountable for a hate crime, or any crime at all for that matter.

Time and time again, in almost every case, we end up learning that the victim was murdered by a friend, family member or romantic partner upon coming out to them as transgender, and in almost every case, the "Trans Panic" defense uses this as a reason to justify the crime, and even coddle the murderer, as though they were somehow the real victim. Lawyers assert that finding out a woman is transgender is somehow so psychologically disturbing that murdering her is the expected and normal response, and in every state but California, it is considered a legitimate defense.

That's beyond frightening, it defies logic and sanity.

Now, obviously, I would never seriously advocate that anyone actually dress as a trans murder victim for Halloween, and I'd certainly like to hope that everyone can see how offensive and hateful that would be. So, why do we have such a hard time seeing it in the Caitlyn Jenner costume? Perhaps it's because of the way transphobia has been institutionalized in our society, and ingrained into our minds since childhood. All most people ever seem to "know" about us are myths and lies concocted to scare the public, when the reality is that we are ordinary women and men (Yes trans men do exist.) just like anyone else. Our gender is just as real and valid as yours. It's not a kink, or a choice. The only difference is our bodies, and while no one will ever be murdered for not being trans, our trans bodies will continue to make us targets, and those same trans bodies will continue to be used as an excuse for murder.

Many Halloween costumes involve fake blood. Sadly, in this case, the blood is all too real. It's easy to say it's "just a costume," and at the end of the night, you can take it off. But we can't take off our transness, and we will continue having to live with the consequences of the subtle, casual hatred your costume embodies. My hope is that with education, you'll learn to leave our bodies out of your fright-night wardrobe selection, because frankly, we're running out of blood for you to use.

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