Conform or Die!

Transgender Day of Remembrance is a day that is set aside to memorialize those people who have died due to violence and hate crimes inflicted upon them by others who took exception to their gender expression. So many people believe that the words (male, masculine, and man or) female, feminine, and woman are synonymous. The pronouns for all three are the same: (he or) she. But there are many who do not fit so easily into this binary construction.

Most people attempt to conform and behave the way society has modeled for their birth sex regardless of whether it fits or not. Some, however, have the courage to honor their authentic selves and either live in the middle somewhere between man and woman while others may crossover and live as the gender or sex opposite to that assigned at birth. These people face the threat of violence and ridicule throughout their lives. Often, there is a state of terror inflicted on these courageous people.

These people are transgender. Those who cross over are often brutalized by ‘lovers’ who claim they were deceived because they were not given a genital description before they became intimate. Those living in the middle are subject to harassment and hate crimes from random strangers acting as the ‘gender police’ using brutal violence and intimidation to enforce gender conformity. Both are often denied the use of facilities that most people take for granted such as restrooms, housing, and emergency rooms.

I know of no minority group that has a higher per capita murder rate than transgenders. They are routinely threatened, harassed, and in some cases even murdered. It is open season on transgenders. Murders of transgenders often go unsolved. The police seem to have more important victims. Murderers who are caught often claim justification as a defense claiming that a reasonable person would do the same. Many people who believe they accept transgenders actually marginalize them and treat them as some sort of novelty. The humanity of transgenders is denied.

In truth, transgender murders affect everyone. The entire population is being terrorized. The message is clear: “Conform or die!” This is hardly the message of a free society and runs counter to our founders’ promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Many people who may consider themselves ‘ordinary’ do not even realize they too are being terrorized because it is not much of a stretch for them to conform.

November 17th is an opportunity for transgenders and their allies in Bloomington to stand up and be counted, to affirm the inherent value of all human life, and to denounce hate crimes and murder—something one would think would be a mainstream position. It is also an opportunity to educate others about a state of terror that many do not know exists. We read the names of our siblings and our children who died for having the courage to be themselves in a world that told them not to. On this day, we remember our dead.

Kay Johnson (the author) is a resident of Bloomington, Indiana, and serves on the Board of Directors for the National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals (NOGLSTP). NOGSLTP at IU is sponsoring events on 11/16-17/09 in honor of the eleventh annual ‘Transgender Day of Remembrance’. For more information visit: http://www.noglstp.net/iu. Contact Kay at: kayjohnson@noglstp.net