A few years ago, in response to an article I read regarding transgender children being able to use the bathroom of the gender they identified with, I wrote a very ill informed piece. Piece of garbage, that is. When I read the article it enraged me. I thought it was wrong, and potentially dangerous, but I would soon learn that I had no idea what I was talking about.
When the responses started rolling in, I began to actually take the time to learn about the transgender community, and what I found completely redefined my perspective and challenged me to examine how I really felt about many issues facing the world.
Thanks to people like the wonderful Parker Molloy, a well known advocate in the transgender community who tried to break through my ignorance, I began to see the truth, and it's really quite simple - Transgender people are people. Period.
Since having this awakening of sorts, I have paid close attention to issues that have arisen in this community. I have to say, without a doubt, every time I see a relative story or article, it absolutely breaks my heart. It's not typically the story content that is so painful to read, but the responses. The foul, outrageous, cruel and flat out disgusting comments. I read a piece yesterday that demonstrated this so poignantly that I felt compelled to write this.
The article was about a touching tribute to Leelah Alcorn, a 17 year transgender girl. Leelah's last words were left on a note that simply said "I've had enough," before stepping out on to a highway into the path of a tractor-trailer. A group in Ohio adopted a portion of a highway and signs were erected to dedicate it to Leelah's memory. A wonderful act of love and remembrance.
I scrolled down to the comment section, already aware of what I would find. These articles always attract trolls, but in the past they have been the exception, now they are the vast majority. The things that they said were just terrible. The following are a few examples, I'm sad to say that there are long-winded paragraphs that share the same basic sentiments, but for the sake of brevity, I'll just post some of the brief ones:
"The state names a highway over a freak of nature. What's next serial killers?"
"Thank God another FREAK is off the face of this planet."
"Enough already of these cross-dressing, mentally unstable, freaks of nature."
"Thank God that nature weeds out these deviants."
"That thing was not a girl. It had a penis, therefore it was a male."
I read these comments and I can't help but wonder, what in the world has happened to us? Has the modern age of technology opened us up to unfamiliar territory and we are too primitive to adapt? Or have we always been this depraved and now have the connectivity to express our bigotry?
Leelah did make the choice to take her own life. However, we must understand that she was choosing between two alternatives --death, or live with this abuse -- sadly for her, living through this pain was too much, and I can see why. The saddest part of this whole debate is that these people just want to be themselves. That's all, and frankly, they have every right to be. I listen to people talk about guns as being a god given right, when really it's a government given right. To be yourself? To have the freedom to live your life comfortably and in your own skin? Those are god given rights.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 41% of trans people will attempt suicide. Let that sink in for a moment. Nearly half of an entire sect of people will try to kill themselves. They will try to end their lives not because they identify as male or female, but because of the way they are treated based on their gender identification. This is extremely alarming.
Now of course, just as trans people have the right to be themselves, we have a right to have an opinion about them and express that opinion, should we feel so inclined. That said, I question, should we? Regardless of your opinion, let's be honest, how many of us are really impacted by the transgender community at all? In any way? Very few, if any. How many of us even know a trans person? With only 0.2-0.3% of America's population being trans, the odds are heavily stacked in your favor that you will never even have a conversation with a transgender person.
On the other side, the 700,000 people who are trans do have to deal with you. They have to face the hate every single day of their lives. They have to face a population of hundreds of millions of people, the great majority of which, apparently, hate them. All for nothing more than just being themselves. Even in death, as is the case with Leelah, we can't stop, we can't even let her rest in peace. It's devastatingly tragic that we are so paralyzed by misguided hatred.
So ask yourself, next time you go to comment or hurl an insult, do you really want to cause someone pain? Do you really want to push someone over the edge? Do you really want to kill someone, in this case, a child? If you answered yes to any of those questions, I promise you, you have a lot more to worry about than transgender folks.
To the trans community, I'm sorry for the things that you have to deal with. I admire your strength and courage. You are an inspiration. I pray that one day you will be free from this persecution. For today, stay strong and keep being yourselves.
You are perfect.