I find myself each time surrounded by reminders that too many trans lives are cut short; thinking about what makes a trans life.
A trans life in this point in history is often a simple pursuit of a normal life as one’s self. A trans journey can be transformative and beautiful, but trans lives are fragile too, and all too often shaken or shattered by this world’s unreadiness to let trans people lead the lives we deserve.
My trans life is one of empathy and anxiety; ever heartened by my community’s beautiful moments, yet often reminded that many of these moments are compromises, moments of relief from a near-perpetual struggle to not have to live the distresses and disappointments of simply participating in society while trans. The closest trans lives to me have each in their different ways been wounded by transphobia, and in this, of all weeks, trans awareness and trans remembrance bring the memories of old trans wounds, borne of systemic oppression, gatekeeping, and a lack of empathy for people who are so, so very tired of striving simply for permission to exist.
Even now, with so much more trans understanding, spokespersons and representation in media, trans people in many parts of the world can’t even take our transitions into our own hands, with layers upon layers of toil and angst between us and a simple lifesaving daily handful of pills.
Too much of the medical profession doesn’t know enough about us: partly because the burning of years of knowledge by literal fascists a near-century ago forced a fresh start upon trans research, and partly because a variety of insidious pro-life groups and foundations quietly funnel money into the production of transphobic propaganda, intentionally fuelling public debate over our right to live our lives.
As a result, In the UK, feelings of looking forward to post-pandemic life have even been marred by public debate in the media about which public toilets and dressing rooms trans people should use, such is the readiness of many under the weight of misinformation to misunderstand us altogether, hyperfixating on socially assigning gender roles according to the shape of strangers’ genitals.
Yet still, despite all this, I’m absurdly fortunate as a trans person to be a white trans woman in the west. My UK worries about trans lives, representation, activism, the people in my life shaken by the gatekeeping of my country’s gender services, my traumatised housemate who nearly died from their medical neglect, even absurd minutiae like what kind of practical dress goes best with cycling days out, yet is also good for inconspicuously pissing in the tall grass… valid as they are, they don’t compare at all to the injustices, oppression and murder done to trans people in other parts of the world, and throughout history.
Trans people are nothing new. Gender and its expressions have been changing throughout cultures, and trans people have existed throughout history with notable examples in the many ancient pantheons, including deities. There’s nothing new to consider, no trans question – we’ve been here all along, and the only terrible things that happened because of it happened to us.
Whenever queer and trans lives are visible, defying the traditional family structure, creating our own found families, there’s also very visible signs of labour exploiting structures, societies, religions and rulers oppressing and destroying trans and queer lives. That’s your cue; that’s your alarm. Take it from a frequently endangered species; We’re the canaries in the coalmine of your rights and consent, and we’re telling you, this is your danger signal.
And so I’m remembering trans lives lost this year, and trans lives filled with trauma, and everything that trans people have to do to simply… be. If you ever thought this year was scary, oppressive, isolating, challenging to get through and potentially fatal to be around people… you’ve been living a lot of the worst parts of the trans experience.
Yet I’m remembering the powerful joy of my community, how our bonds through the pandemic have been strong, how well accustomed we immediately became to 2020, having lived our own version of it for most of our lives, creating found families, love, laughter, understanding and sometimes rainbows out of the unforgiving raw material of compromise.
So for today, let’s remember and reach out to trans lives, and I hope you’ll help us work towards a day where we can live those trans lives without trans compromise.
Consider the trans lives we lost this year. Help us make this world the one they deserved.