Transgender Day of Remembrance: Let's stop the violence | Amy Johnson

For most of us, understanding gender identity is like being a fish trying to understand water.

We can use public restrooms without fear of verbal abuse, physical intimidation, or arrest. Our genders aren’t considered a mental disorder, and we don’t have to undergo extensive psychological evaluation in order to receive basic medical care.

There’s a box for our gender on forms asking for it, and we don’t have to worry about being denied medical, financial or other services because someone doesn’t believe the gender marker on our ID matches our gender identity.

We are what’s called “cisgender.”

On Nov. 20, at least 38 names will be read at Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) events around the world. Compiled by transgenderdor.org, the names are updated as new information arrives.

From Canada to India to Brazil, from Pennsylvania to Illinois to Washington, people who were victims of murder based on a bias against transgender people will be remembered.

“Transgender” is an umbrella type term to include people who have gender non-conforming behavior or practices, such as cross-dressers, drag queens and transsexuals. Here is some help with a few definitions (transequality.org):

• Gender identity: An individual’s internal sense of being male, female, or something else. Not necessarily visible to others.

• Gender expression: How a person represents one’s gender identity to others, often through behavior, dress, hairstyles, and other characteristics.

• Cross-dresser: A term for people who dress in clothing traditionally or stereotypically worn by the other sex, but who often have no intent to live full-time as another gender. “Transvestite” is considered by many to be a derogatory word for cross-dressers.

• Drag queen: Generally refers to men who dress as women (often celebrity women) for entertaining in bars or clubs. This term is also used in a derogatory manner to refer to any transgender woman.

• Transsexual: A term for those whose gender identity is different from their assigned sex at birth. Some go through altering their body with hormones or surgery to help it match their gender identity.

Someone who identifies as transgender falls outside of “male” or “female” boxes. Many people who identify as transgender, or “trans,” have strong feelings of being a gender other than the one of the body in which they live. A person might have male genitalia, XY chromosomes, and male hormones, while at the same time have a brain that has developed more typically the way a female brain develops. This person could feel like she is a woman living in a man’s body.

Although a small percentage (under 5 percent) of Americans identify as transgender, 41 percent of transgender youth have attempted suicide (National Center for Transgender Equality). Almost one in five transgender people have been refused medical care because of their status, and some report being assaulted, even violently, in a doctor’s office (msnbc.msn.com).

To put this in perspective, note that between one and two percent of folks in our country are Jewish, have red hair, or have Down syndrome. We don’t stand for this type of discrimination and violence against people because of their religion, hair color, or chromosomal challenge. Why is our society not outraged at violence because of gender identity?

Grow your awareness, and become an advocate for vulnerable youth and adults in our community.

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