Monday, April 23, 2018

Transphobia kills

A friend died last week. I say “friend” though I hardly knew them. 

It is just I so wanted to know them more.

Several years ago they came out to me as trans, and I so wanted to help them.

It was difficult because they said they had given up hope. They didn’t believe it was possible they could ever be open about who they were because they felt so deeply ashamed.

I told them…I told them all the things you would tell someone in such a position. I was sure they would feel better if they could be open about who they were.

I said that in my experience the whole process of transitioning had been very difficult, but far less difficult that I had thought it would be.

It was hard to believe, sometimes, in the torment they were suffering. Because they came across as an outgoing, friendly person, always with a kind word. 

But they said sometimes they just couldn’t bear to see anyone or to be seen at all.

I said I was sorry but the feeling would not go away. The only way through it is to do the one thing we are most afraid of but also want to do more than anything in the world. I said that if they decided to begin to live as a woman people in our church would support them, because I know they would. 

And I said I would help them in any wayI could.

And they smiled  sadly and said they didn’t think they could do that.

And then I started to see them less and less.

And now they’re gone.

I heard the news just as I was about to go on stage. I was performing with 12 other women in a remarkable and visionary art installation by Tai Shani at the Tramway. She had created a beautiful space that represented the City of Women imagined by the 14th century Cristine de Pizan. And we were to embody the free citizens of a post patriarchal future.

And so I did that as best I could.

I thought of how when I was still forced to live as a man I was at heart so ashamed that performing was completely blocked for me. Of the twenty years of struggle it took me to find my voice as a writer. Of the catcalls and the shouting and the insults and abuse that pursued me as I started to go out as a woman.

Of the women who, when last year I was awarded the award of being one of the Ten Outstanding Women of Scotland, took such a venomous pleasure in telling me I was a man. And who said that if I had a single shred of human decency in me I would renounce the award. Because it was not mine.

The hatred we face is still so real and often, too, it is lodged deep inside ourselves. I know it caused the death of my friend.

In the words of our Brazilian sisters: “Transphobia kills”.

And I so wish, my dear, I could call you by your true name. I hope at least you told someone so that it has not remained unknown for ever.

Whenever we met she, and I will call her she, she would greet me affectionately and call me “Big Bird”in the tender playful way of hers.

Fly into the kind night, little bird. Fly into the unknown darkness. I hope you come out in a safer and more loving world.

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