We're Trans, We're Dying, and We're Fighting

(Rachel Lee • The Student Life)

Transgender Day of Remembrance is this Sunday, Nov. 20. It is a day to mourn our dead—we have, at last count, 26 on record this year in the United States—and fight for those of us still living.

Just over a week ago, the nation elected Donald Trump, a man who could be considered one of the most vitriolic, hateful bigots (if his vice president-elect and transition team were not outdoing him in those fields already). The trans community at the 5Cs and around the world will once again be reminded of just how dire the straits are for us. We will light our candles, hold our vigils, and perhaps observe our day of silence. We will fight on.

But I am sick of fighting.

It makes sense that every United States citizen should be able to have a passport that reflects their identity. But that is not a promise guaranteed for trans people under the Trump administration.

In many states, trans people must either undergo surgery or extensive hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in order to update their identity documents, including birth certificates and driver’s licenses. Until 2014, California mandated that trans people put an ad in a newspaper announcing that they were changing their name and/or gender marker. While there are good reasons for asking people who are changing their name to put out an ad, the risks and danger of this action for trans people are obvious.

Removing requirements like making a public newspaper announcement and providing proof of surgery are baby steps. The legal process of changing one's name and gender marker is often long, cumbersome, and can be excruciating if one does not live in the county or state they file in.  

For example, I “live” in Los Angeles County because I go to school in the county. I also “live” in Santa Clara County, which is where my official residential address is. My boots aren’t on the ground there save for a few months of the school year, yet I don’t want to risk the bureaucratic mess of filing in another county. It also doesn’t help that California is extremely vague about what constitutes “living” in a county. But the bureaucracy of proper documentation is nothing compared to the other risks in our lives.

There are reports, although confirmation is spotty at best, of trans people killing themselves after the election’s results were announced. We as a community ask ourselves: Do we add those names to the list that we mourn come Sunday? Regardless, we know that suicide hotline calls, both in general and to hotlines specific to the trans and greater LGBTQ+ communities, spiked after Trump’s election. We are terrified to the point that we consider killing ourselves. This is no longer an abstract or trifling matter.

I marched in the 5C rally and protest on Friday, Nov.11. I marched for myself and my own terror, I marched for my friends and classmates, and I marched for all the other trans people who couldn’t be there.

The ones who are incarcerated and/or detained.

The ones who are closeted and scared to come out or have been punished for coming out.

The ones who are dead.

I am “the face” of the movement that cisgender (non-transgender) people often like to see. I am a white, non-visibly disabled, upper-class, educated transmasculine person in a relationship with a woman. I am also queer and have multiple, invisible chronic illnesses. For me, participating in a three-hour protest on a Friday means an entire weekend lost to rest and recovery. Protesting in Los Angeles or anywhere else off-campus is virtually impossible.

I am not, by far, a full representation of the entire transgender community. I certainly don’t look like most of the detained, incarcerated, forcibly closeted, and dead members.

I am sick of fighting. I am sick of having to beg and then riot for basic human rights. But I fight because I know I have the privilege to be visible without too much backlash. I am, due to my white maleness, the kind of trans person who is either not featured in media or, on the other hand, portrayed as “respectable” and “just like you, but a bit different," despite the media's love of demonizing and sexualizing trans people--especially trans women and transfeminine people of color. Because my default state is invisibility, not hypervisibility (as it is for far too many trans women and transfeminine people), I can afford to be visible and in-your-face once in awhile.

I fight for the others who can’t. And I grieve for those who my community has lost and will continue to lose.

Those who can must rally, march, and take to the streets in protest. There is strength in numbers, just like in every other fight. Those who cannot rally have other forms of protest: auxiliary work like sign-painting, calling government representatives, and talking to their peers.

We, the trans community, the 5C community, and our allies on the ground, in the government, in every corner of the world, must stand up for our rights and beliefs. We cannot and will not be forced into silence.

Make your voice heard. Do not give up. 

Mourn the dead, tend to the injured, and fight like hell for the living,

Donnie.

Donnie Tobie Denome PZ ‘20 is a transmasc queerdo from the San Francisco Bay Area. They like cats, knitting, button-making, and public health research.