A few months ago, during a visit to one of my doctors, I was detailing how I had been experiencing unsettling bouts of shortness of breath.
“How often does it happen?” he asked.
“Not every day,” I replied. “It seems to come and go. There’s no real pattern to it, but it’s been happening more frequently in the past week.”
“When does it happen?”
“Almost always in the morning, when I’m putting on my makeup or getting dressed for work.”
“It sounds like minor panic attacks.”
“I used to have bad panic attacks, but not since the 1990s. I can’t remember the last time I had one.”
“Most transgender women experience this sort of thing. It’s not uncommon at all. They know when they go outside and interact with people there’s a chance they’ll be mistreated. Some people can be real mean.”
“Geez, I never think that way…I always trust people. I always believe there’s no reason for anyone to be nasty to me. I assume everyone will be nice.”
“If that’s the case, you’re unusual.”
In truth, I told my doctor a bit of a fib. I do, on occasion, dread the thought of stepping outside. I say to myself, “Will this be the day? The day a complete stranger says something disgusting to me. The day a complete stranger decides to beat me up. The day a complete stranger kills me.”
So far this year, I have not been murdered. Knock on wood.
Other transgender women weren’t so fortunate. One source, Planet Transgender, submits that somewhere on this mortal coil a trans woman is the victim of homicide every 29 hours. In the United States, during a year in which transgender issues became a talking point like never before, the homicide rate was almost double from 2014. At last count, there were 22 body bags.
Transgender women, most of them black, have been hacked to death, bludgeoned to death, shot to death and even stoned to death. Someone who murdered a transgender man in Japan also sliced off his face.
That’s why there is a Transgender Day of Remembrance every Nov. 20.
Most people probably don’t care or think about this. But, then, most people probably don’t know a transgender person. We make up less than one per cent of the global population. And, of course, there’s the freak factor. We’re nothing but a bunch of men in dresses, right? Don’t let the freaks near your little girls, especially in a women’s washroom, right? Better kill them all before something bad happens.
For the most part, I’ve been very fortunate since my transition in January 2008. At worst, I’ve been stalked and held captive in my vehicle. I’ve been groped and fondled by drunken men. In gay bars, of all places. I’ve been verbally abused, mocked and ridiculed countless times, and told I don’t belong. In gay bars (you’re allowed to wonder what’s up with that). I have been unable to secure full-time employment for the past eight years. I live deep below the poverty line.
I do not ask, nor do I expect, sympathy from anyone, though.
I’m happy I’m living my truth. I have a small, but wonderful circle of friends. I live in a city, Victoria, that offers a comfortable climate, both environmentally and in terms of social acceptance. On my few trips to my hometown of Winnipeg this year, I experienced nothing but complete acceptance.
And that’s what it’s all about. Acceptance. Not tolerance. Acceptance.
We don’t expect people to understand us. You can’t. Not unless you are transgender. But if you ask enough questions, if you do enough research, you’ll discover that we’re just regular, ordinary folks with the same dreams, desires, loves and needs as you. Learn that and perhaps the bad guys will stop killing us.
Is that too much to hope for?