Thoughts on the Killings and Aftermaths

Community, Random Thoughts at 3 AM / Monday, February 16th, 2015
Right now, six trans women have been killed this year in the US. I suspect this is not a complete list, and I know this number will grow in the coming months. It doesn’t count the fates of trans women outside of the US, either.

Anyone who is surprised by this must understand–this sort of body count is business as usual to our population. We handle grief in our own ways. Some people are public, others are private, some protest through devoting themselves to their work, families, art or simply their refusal to die.

I notice on Facebook and Twitter, many well meaning people talking about needing to do something. Yet, what is it, exactly, that one would ask trans women to do? Go to an official vigil? Sign an Internet petition? Or maybe give hugs and reassurance that “you’re not like those others—you are different?”

Just after Leelah Alcorn died late last year, another writer messaged me saying “I just wrote this article about Leelah’s passing. Could you read it and tell me what you think?” I think that was very insensitive. Leelah’s death hit me, not because of her youth or her visibility, or the color of her skin, but because she left a suicide note that sounded very much like what I was feeling at her age.

I understand and am grateful for what must have been a show of respect. However, mourning is a special time, and should be approached with compassion and humanity. Shouts and calls for action are good for some people, but those who prefer other ways to mourn or respond should not be questioned or doubted when they don’t show up at the local candlelight vigil.

Especially for a group that has far more practice mourning its own than is fair or even sane. Also, if each murder demands that all trans women interrupt their lives to behave a certain way, go to certain events, comfort others whenever asked, and display themselves on the diversity carousel, then that would simply be adding to the violence they must endure. Yes, some of us demonstrate and react, and do this well, and they are amazing. Yet, even moreamazing is the variety of voices and souls and genius our sisters possess.

Even those who are silent–silence also does not mean we need others to speak for us. Yes, in our times of need, it is good to have friends–but do not mistake silence for apathy, or helplessness, or ignorance. Do not think silence must be filled with frenzied, short-lived indignity. Do not think someone has to come in and save us. Not even you. When it is time for each of us to act, we will, and it is far better to begin fresh, without having to correct words that were not ours to begin with.

Besides, if we are worth demonstrating so loudly when dead, then we surely must be worth supporting quietly when alive–right?

Help us, observe, be there when someone isn’t hiring us, or laughs at our appearance, our voices. Be there when people think we owe them some sort of honesty at the cost of basic human privacy. Find us magical and compelling and human–now–not when we are dead.

And instead, of speaking for us–perhaps listen to the silence, understand its power, and the power of those to face it so often from their friends and loved ones the moment they decide to live, finally, as themselves.