As Halloween approaches, I find it necessary to remind people that being trans is not a costume. It’s a real identity that people wear everyday and as such, it shouldn’t be made light of.
I remember last year when Caitlyn Jenner came out. I was completely awestruck by her courage. Here’s someone who for many years represented the epitome of masculinity. Before becoming Caitlyn Jenner, she was Bruce Jenner, the track star who won an Olympic gold medal.
Bruce Jenner was a well-respected athlete in the ’70s. Nobody made fun of him because on the outside, he was your average heteronormative male. But that all changed when he came out as being trans. All the sudden, he was the laughing stock of the country, with Caitlyn Jenner Halloween costumes popping up everywhere.
What people don’t realize is that Bruce was always Caitlyn on the inside, it’s just that he felt he couldn’t express that because of fear; fear of being bullied, fear of being sexually assaulted, fear of being killed.
All of these fears are 100% legitimate. In fact, according to RAINN, “21% of TGQN (transgender, genderqueer, nonconforming) college students have been sexually assaulted, compared to 18% of non-TGQN females, and 4% of non-TGQN males.”
To make matters worse, violence against trans people are on the rise. According to the Human Rights Campaign, in 2015, 21 trans people were killed in the U.S. This is the highest number of trans murders ever recorded in American history.
Nothing about that is funny. That’s why it’s not okay to treat it like a joke by wearing a trans Halloween costume. If you want to dress up for Halloween, wear a ghost costume. Wear a Mickey Mouse costume. Wear an Iron Man costume. But whatever you do, don’t mock someone’s identity.
Making fun of someone and degrading their self-worth is what leads to suicide. The trans community has been through enough already. The last thing they need is another death that could have been prevented.
Pope Francis, despite a reputation as being the “cool” Pope for the Roman Catholic Church, has always been more accepting of the LGBT community in theory than in practice. Even as he’s preached increased tolerance, he’s done so in a “hate the sin, not the sinner” way that is not truly accepting. And recently, he’s been extending that to the transgender populace as well.
He’s claimed that transgender people are waging a “world war against marriage” without providing any particular reasons why, and believes that teaching any kind of gender theory in schools is a form of indoctrination. Specifically, he called it “ideological colonization.” Which is particularly rich, coming from the head of the Catholic Church.
His “coolness” with LGBT people begins and ends with his stance that clergy should not refuse to minister to queer people. It’s hard to see that as acceptance, coming hand-in-hand with his belief that any discussion of gender identity is telling children they can “choose” their gender, which he called terrible.
In practice, that puts LGBT churchgoers right alongside murderers and habitual criminals—sinners forever, but still attended to by the church.
After the shootings at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Pope Francis was one of the voices that joined an international song of support for the queer community. At the time, he said that gays were owed an apology by Christians for the long history between the two groups. No one could disagree with him. But his recent comments seem to illustrate that he does not quite understand just what the Church needs to apologize for.
Also demonstrated is how important it is for the dialogue between LGBT leaders and the Church, or all churches really, needs to make certain to feature transgender people, their needs, and their history. All too often, they’re left out of the discussion to avoid “complicating” it, and this needs to end.
Even in 2016, with all the advances that the LGBTQ+ community has made, it can still be hard to come out, particularly when it comes to one’s professional life. But the question of whether or not to come out at work is one that every member of the community has to address at some point, and there are benefits to doing so, just as there are downsides.
According to J.D. Schramm, a lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, being out has been a boon in his professional life. It has allowed him to “lead out loud” as he calls it, namely to be authentic with those around him. Especially for people in leadership positions, coming out can help to put others at ease, as some employees and co-workers may feel that they’ve been mislead if they find out that one is a member of the LGBTQ+ community through some other channel.
While coming out can be a way to get out in front of a rumor, it also signals that one is comfortable with themselves and in their professional life. Of course, not everybody has reached that point yet, and there are a lot of factors to consider before coming out. Some people can be out in their personal but not professional lives, though this is becoming increasingly difficult as the lines between those lives blur thanks to social media and an increasing tendency of companies to “spy” on employees’ Facebook profiles.
While coming out can help one cement their position as a leader, it can also have negative consequences. Not every industry, workplace, or community is welcoming to LGBTQ+ people, and the environment in which one works is perhaps the most important consideration when deciding whether or not to come out. If nothing else, it may require more thought as to how, and when, to come out.
Another name has been added to the list of victims of transgender violence. This time, it’s Hason Amin Alford, who went by the nickname “Jazz.” Alford was a 30-year-old trans woman living in Alabama. She was shot on Sept. 23 at the Kings Inn on Third Avenue in Birmingham.
Alford’s sister Toya Milan (who is also a trans woman) is still grieving over the recent tragedy. Milan told reporters that transgender people are often targeted because people view them as being “monsters.”
“People think transgenders are monsters, when really we just want to be accepted. [Alford] was such a loving person and we didn’t know anybody that would want to hurt her. It’s been a hard pill to swallow,” Milan stated.
As of now, police still don’t have a motive for Alford’s murder. However, they do have a suspect in custody in relation to yet another transgender homicide.
On Monday, October 3, a transgender woman from eastern Birmingham was shot in the face during a home invasion. Police have arrested 23-year-old Denzell Thomas in connection with the crime. Thomas has officially been charged with attempted murder and first-degree robbery.
Daurius Foster, the boyfriend of the second shooting victim, believes that the shooter used a gun that was stolen in the recent robbery of another trans woman. Police cannot confirm this theory at the moment. In fact, Birmingham homicide Sergeant John Tanks told reporters that police are currently investigating the cases separately.
Three victims. All transgender. All from one area. All of these crimes took place within a month’s time frame. The trans community is being targeted and every time we think we’ve made progress, stories like this resurface and we have to remind ourselves that we’re still under attack.
Stay vigilant my friends. Look out for one another. And most importantly, please contact the Birmingham Police Department if you have any information related to this case.
Faggot. Dike. Butch. Queer.
These are just some of the many slurs that LGBT folks hear every single day. But while you cannot control what other people say or do, you can control how you react to it. In fact, your reaction is key because it can actually discourage people from using those slurs ever again. The following provides a multitude of options on how to react to derogatory comments so that you can empower yourself and your community.
Reclaim the Word
In recent years, the LGBT community has effectively reclaimed the word “queer” so that it no longer has a negative connotation. In much the same way that African Americans have reclaimed the “N” word, so too has the gay community redeemed “queer.” Queer is now a respectful, inclusive word that can be used to reference anyone who identifies as being LGBT. Taking back the word is taking back the power it once had over you.
Call Someone Out
Ever hear someone say, “That’s so gay”? Don’t be afraid to say, “Hey, that’s not okay!” The thing is, people don’t treat you based on how you deserve to be treated; people treat you based on how you allow yourself to be treated. Additionally, don’t be afraid to express your anger over the use of the term or phrase. Be firm, be direct, but most of all, take the opportunity to educate that person on why it’s inappropriate to make those kinds of remarks.
There’s a reason that they say laughter is the best medicine. Look, sometimes people are just plain vile and mean spirited. They’re unhappy with themselves and they feel the need to project their insecurities onto you. In fact, some people will purposefully try and push your buttons just to elicit a response from you. Don’t fall for it. This is done in an effort to control you. In cases like this, the best response you can give is to laugh it off. Laughing will not only be unexpected, but it will communicate to the verbal abuser that their scare tactics don’t work on you.
In an ideal world, everyone would be courteous of one another and there wouldn’t be any derogatory remarks. Unfortunately, that’s not the world we live in. So until we completely eradicate the use of these slurs, we must continue to fight back in a way that liberates us from the chains of oppression.
Mara Wilson is a special kind of celebrity, the kind who was a child star and was, and continues to be, important to people right around her own age. With her online presence small but buoyed up by appearances on popular podcasts and Youtube channels, she handles social media with a blunt sort of grace. She’s not Matilda anymore. She’s 29, she’s Mara, and she’s a nerd household name.
And she’s bisexual, too.
Wilson came out almost by accident in the emotional aftermath of the Pulse Nightclub shooting in June 2016.
“The LGBTQ community has always felt like home, especially a few years later when I, uh, learned something about myself. So thank you,” she tweeted.
Shortly after, she confirmed that she is “Bi. But yeah,” in response to people accusing her of appropriating the sympathies evoked by the tragedy.
“I know a lot of people don’t like the Kinsey scale, and that is fine by me. But I’m pragmatic at heart and find comfort in numbers. … Let me put it this way: I’m a 2,” she continued. For those not familiar with Kinsey, a two on the Kinsey scale of gender-based attraction means one’s attractions are ‘Predominantly heterosexual, but more than incidentally homosexual.’ Which means bisexual.
Wilson, whose memoir went up on shelves September 13th, didn’t expect her casually made statement to go viral on Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook, the three giants of social media, and the response overwhelmed her, even though it was vastly positive.
We know that many children are aware of their own labels pretty young. It’s very good to imagine young bi girls being able to watch Matilda and see that little superhero and know they belong with her. And it’s good to know that Wilson, who is funny, clever, and worldly, belongs with the LGBT community.
In case you don’t know who Steven Anderson is, here’s a quick breakdown: he’s a homophobic preacher who loves hate speech and hates everybody. Specifically, he made headlines when he led a sermon praying for the death of President Barack Obama, and again for saying that gay and transgender people should be murdered. He also celebrated the Pulse nightclub shooting. Oh, and he said that the Paris bombings happened because France is a sinful nation and that the Eagles of Death Metal concert attendees (not, by the way, a death metal band) were devil worshippers.
So yeah, sorry about that, but it’s important to know that this guy is not pleasant. He’s a pastor in his own little church in Arizona which who, for whatever reason, loves to travel to Africa to try and bolster the ranks of his hate group church (as in, the Southern Poverty Law center declared them a hate group). But here’s where we get to the good part: he’s failing miserably at that mission.
Having made it known that he was planning to visit South Africa, a country with a really discriminatory history which is trying hard to do better, the United Kingdom banned him from entry. He couldn’t even have a connecting flight in London. Then, South Africa barred his entry as well. He is on record as thanking God that he had a wide open door to Botswana, but guess what? Yeah, Botswana has declared him a “prohibited immigrant” which means that he is to be deported from the country.
Why is this important? Because it shows that, throughout the world, homophobia is losing ground, and hate-speech is becoming less and less acceptable. South Africa is a perfect example of a country with a violent, terrible history built on racism and oppression, which is now home to some of the most progressive laws in the world. They’re working hard to make their country a better place, and if they can come this far this fast, then the U.S. certainly has hope.