November, 2011 / Author:

A time to honour, a time to celebrate

When we think of hate crimes against transgender people, the first thing that comes to mind is usually gay/trans bashing. We often think of the movie Boys Don’t Cry or about the many transgender people who’ve been murdered when it was discovered they’d transitioned. 

Another thing people think about is the advocacy many of us do. Many of us have advocated to Medical Services Plan here in British Columbia for surgeries. I’ve filed human rights complaints. I have friends who have fought harrowing lawsuits. One acquaintance of mine was recently denied life insurance because he’s transitioned. A friend of mine had complications from his top surgery and when the ambulance attendants arrived at his home, they proceeded to tell him that the complications were his own fault. The attendants told him that because he wanted the surgery that he’d done it to himself. They considered it self-mutilation.

Many of us think about that unfortunate common misconception that still runs rampant, that we’ve somehow “chosen” this; that we’ve somehow just “walked in off the street” and decided to change our sex. The truth is, this is a long, hard, complicated process. It’s a last resort, and to begin hormones you need to have extensive counselling. For surgery you need to be approved by psychiatrists in most places. It’s something that can be treated and in all cases that move forward into transition, it is a necessity. In most cases hormones and surgeries are an alternative to suicide. Many people have committed suicide. They may have lost families, jobs, been denied basic health care by ignorant health-care providers, perhaps even denied the opportunity to transition. 

Something else that has created a home in my head and heart, are the people in countries that have no equal rights. Those countries where someone can be executed, imprisoned without trial and brutally tortured for being gay or transsexual. I have friends who have escaped places like Iran and the horror they’ve lived through is unspeakable. It’s stories like those that make me reflect on where I am, and leaves me thankful to be in a country where people like us have a voice.

A very important piece to remember also, is community. To see other people moving in unison to a goal we’re trying to achieve has been powerful; to be in a room where things don’t need to be said because you’re understood; to be in a place where you can say it anyway; to be in a place of safety. These are imperative to one’s wellbeing on every level.  If you’re at an event on Trans Day of Remembrance, look around you. Every person in that crowd is holding love, strength and compassion for the people we’ve lost, the people suffering, the people fighting for us and every person in that crowd. Feel that energy, draw strength from it, be a part of it, contribute to it.

One definition of ‘Remember’ is ‘To Honour’. So on November 20 while we think of those we’ve lost, let’s also think of those who have survived and continue to fight such an incredible battle. Commend yourselves for staying true to yourselves. They can bash your body but they can’t bash your spirit and who you are. Those who didn’t make it live on in us and every time our voices are heard, their voices are heard.  

– Ryan Furber is a Vancouver-based freelance writer.

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