Seasonal Exhaustion

The holiday is pretty much directly upon me. This weekend I have Christmas with my family. We are going up tomorrow night.

But I don’t feel super merry. In the words of Bilbo Baggins: “I feel thin. Like butter spread over too much bread.”

It has been a long and tumultuous year. The world has continued to terrify me with its ability to be random and cruel while simultaneously delighting me with the warmth and full hearts and adorable cat photos that I have found within it.

Normally at this point in the season I am wearing a festive hat and bouncing around the house to Christmas music like there’s no tomorrow. But I’m not doing either of those things. And what’s weird is that I don’t really care to.

I think the weight of everything that has happened this year has just hit me all at once. The deaths of black women, the burning of black churches, the police brutality, the trans lives that have been lost, rape culture, the everyday harassment that comes along with being femme on the internet or on a street or wherever. Shit, some asshole even killed a lion.

I’ve talked before about the exhaustion that comes from dealing with social justice stuff all the time. The compassion fatigue that we all can feel merely from having access to the internet on a daily basis.

It wears. It takes a toll.

I’m not in a place right this second where I can talk about how to cope with that toll. I’m in it. I’m just looking forward to going home tonight, slapping on some Christmas music and faking it as if I’m going to be making it while I mix up some holiday cookies.

We cope. That’s all we can do sometimes. And I’m just learning now that it’s OK to just cope. To breathe into whatever we’re going through and to be not 100% for a while.

That’s actually a pretty good Christmas gift for me to give myself, now that I think about it.

 

Transgender Day of Remembrance

November 20th is a day set aside to remember those who have been lost to in acts of violence against transgender people.

The Transgender Day of Remembrance was started on November 28th, 1998, when Rita Hester was murdered. Her murder, which has yet to be solved, galvanized the community to start a web project titled “Remembering Our Dead,” which then spun out to become the Day of Remembrance that we observe today.

The transgender community is effected by anti-LGBT violence disproportionately when compared to the rest of the LGBT community. A report by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) found that 72% of victims of anti-LGBT homicide were trans women, while 67% of anti-LGBT homicide victims were trans women of color. So far this year we have lost 30 members of the trans community to unspeakable acts of violence. Please take a moment to learn their names, if you do not already know them. Hold them in your heart today.

Trans people are also more likely to be subjected to police violence than other members of the community at large. According to the survey conducted by NCAVP, transgender people of color are 6 times more likely to experience physical violence at the hands of police when compared to white cisgendered people. The trans community generally are 7 times more likely to experience physical violence when interacting to the police when compared with cisgendered people.

Added to that sobering number, the trans community also faces staggering numbers regarding suicide rates. According to the Williams Insitute, 46% of trans men reported having attempted suicide. The numbers for trans women are not much better at 42%. The rate of suicide attempts among the LGB community is half that. And the rate among the overall population outside of the LGBT community is a mere 4.6%. Those numbers are deeply skewed and also deeply frightening.

Not only do trans people face violence when it comes to heterosexuals who may be transphobic, the fact of the matter is that trans people are frequently overlooked and underrepresented within the LGB community as well. One of the latest and possibly best examples I can give you of this is the recent Stonewall film debacle. But Stonewall isn’t the only example of this issue. Trans erasure and trans silencing and even transphobia are rampant within the LGB community.

The trans community faces a disproportionate level of violence and hardship within the LGBT community, and they get so little support

For my part, I am at a loss when it comes to days like today. I cannot imagine what it must be like for people to walk through their lives so maligned by the people around them. Grappling with a trans identity in a society that is so hetero- and cis-normative must be difficult enough, without that added fear.

I think the worst thing has to be the sense of betrayal when faced with transphobia and transmisogyny in the LGB community. I get that no community is perfect, but the fact that I’ve had to shut down repugnant phobic remarks within my community has shocked me. The fact that there is so little recognition or acceptance of trans issues is so disheartening.

To my trans friends and anyone reading this who I may not know: I see you. I will do my best to be an ally to you in every way that I can. And if you are struggling, know that you are valued. That you are seen and cared for by the people around you. Please reach out if you are suffering. Please stay.

To my fellow cis people: Do your best today and every day to be open to what trans people are saying to you. Learn to be called out with dignity. Learn to open yourself to experiences that differ from your own. If you have anything to spare, please consider donating time or money to trans organizations and communities in your area.

Hatred, Terror and the Shooting in Charleston

I woke up this morning to the same news as many of you. Last night in Charleston, North Carolina, a white man consumed by hate shot and killed 9 people in a church after a prayer meeting.*

My heart goes out to the community in Charleston and to the families and friends of those injured and killed. I cannot begin to imagine what they are going through.**

The scariest thing about events like this is that, although we condemn the people who have committed these acts, the fact is that the person behind the gun is simply that: a person.

Things were simpler when I was younger and lived under the mistaken assumption that Bad Guys were easily identifiable and worked for Evil Organizations with names like Cobra so you knew they were bound to do something terrible. As an adult, I’m aware that a lot of the terrible things we see happening are the result of individual choice. And that terrifies me.

When I was in high school the 911 attacks happened. I won’t bother to recount what they were like. So many of us were around when they happened. And the events themselves are not the point.

After the attacks, the people around me were so angry. I want to say that I was somehow above all that. That I saw instantly the inherent humanity of the cultures out of which the terrorists arose. But I was young and I didn’t have that inherent response. The people around me infused me with anger. I didn’t know who to point my anger at, so I pointed it at the countries that we were told by the government were the ones responsible. And I felt that anger with all the forcefulness of a teenage girl who had not yet learned important lessons about temperance.

I hated a group of people intensely. For a moment. Before I stopped myself and started to work out the nuance of that group. I saw the absurdity of hating a whole swath of human beings as though they were responsible for the actions of individuals.

The things that cause and engender violence on the part of individuals are more complicated and nuanced than simply being born in the same place. Eventually, the choice to do violence unto another person comes down to individual choice.

But that’s the scary part.

Individuals.

I could walk through my life and manage to never be pushed by external or internal forces into an act of senseless violence. But the people around me have no way of knowing if I will one day snap and do something terrible. Something irrevocable.

The bastard who shot up that church last night deserves to be punished. The terror that he has inflicted upon the community in Charleston is very real. And lasting. The damage that he has done can be measured in lives lost and terror inflicted.

He is just one man. And that’s what frightens me. That one man could do so much damage and cause so much grief and somehow be missed by the authorities until after he had done something so terrible… it makes me afraid. Which I’m sure was at least part of his goal. That’s the way that terrorists usually operate, after all.


*That man, Dylann Roof, has since been apprehended. It’s worth noting that he has been taken alive despite having killed 9 people. A privilege that is not afforded many people of color in this country who have been killed for merely having a gun, or just walking down the street. I can’t wait to hear the mental health and “he was a quiet boy” defenses start rolling off tongues in the peanut gallery. I want to talk more about this story as it unfolds. I’m already exhausted in the face of the racism inherent in our media and police force in their handling of this situation. I’ll muster up the words for my thoughts soon.


**Please consider making a donation to the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church to help get their community through this trying time.