Many of us have been there or know someone who has. In the US, the national average for suicide is 1.6%, of that there is 5-10% in the gay community, and in the Trans community it’s 42%.
We, the LGBTQ community, only make up only 4.5% of the population, yet we account for 50% of the suicides. That should scare the shit out of anyone, in the community or not. Bottom line, it’s got to stop.
We know, sadly, that most of these stem from sources such as those in our environment, bullying, lack of acceptance, being outted, as well as organic issues like gender dysphoria, etc. We need to be there, for ourselves and for our other Rainbow Tribe members.
If you or someone you know who has struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts, having these items, and knowing how they can help, could make the difference between being here and being gone. Lots of loved ones want to help, but don’t know how to. Here’s a great way to help.
Over the years, we’ve seen a lot of progressive changes here in America. While some show us just how far we’ve come, others let us know just how far we still need to go. I was reading the latest piece here on The Kinfolk Kollective (brilliant writer btw, check her out) about Viola Davis and the nonsense (read bullshit) that ensued.
While I did not watch the awards, I saw the immediate spreading the joyous news of Viola Davis’ well deserved win on social media. I think she’s an incredibly talented actor and I was very happy that she received her due in this well earned recognition.
Later I saw her speech, along with the very short and spread out list of other firsts and I was saddened to realize how little progress we’ve made in this area. To be honest, since I’m not a fan of the awards shows or their history I had no idea until this moment how far behind we were in this arena.
I remember seeing Halle Berry’s acceptance speech in my younger years thinking “cool, we’re there” and being completely oblivious to the fact that we are so far from it in this vein. Viola really hit the nail on the head when she pointed out you can’t win awards for parts not written. It’s a simple problem with a seemingly simple solution. Right?
But of course no one can have their 15 seconds forget 15 minutes, in the sun before critics and assholes feel the need to tear people down with their own Ignorance. This phenomenon was never more apparent than when a Tweet by an unnamed white actress (only because I refuse to offer any publicity with her name attached) who felt that Viola should have allowed someone else to write her speech for her. Are you kidding me?
So here we finally have the first African-American woman in this country to win an Emmy for Best Actress in a Drama, and this person felt, either out of jealousy of the win or personal discomfort because it didn’t align with her life of privilege, that it should have been censored or desensitized for those who prefer to speak out of their asses because their heads are buried deeply in the sand.
If I can offer a brief but meaningful segue – One of my favorite movies is A Time to Kill starring Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock and the ever powerful Samuel L. Jackson. The 1996 movie is based on the book of the same name by John Grisham, and is a story told from the defence attorney’s perspective as he digs deep to defend his client (Samuel L. Jackson) accused of murder after killing the men who repeatedly and brutally assaulted his young daughter. McConaughey’s closing speech as Southern defense attorney Jake Brigance is one that will stop your heart and give you the deepest understanding of racial divide that you never saw coming. If you haven’t seen it, I urge you to watch it here.
After you regain your composure, feel free to join in the singing “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” from the Broadway musical Avenue Q and be sure to invite and include almost everyone you’ve ever known to join you in the chorus. There’s no shame in realizing that down deep you have some racially disparaging leanings at your core. Of course you couldn’t. You didn’t realized that you’ve been groomed this way from birth and while you may wash away some of it, there’s a couple of places you didn’t know were even there.
American society historically has been very racist and it didn’t stop with the end of the Civil War. In fact, slavery didn’t even end with the war. If you’re not familiar with Juneteenth look it up. Don’t be surprised if you’re not familiar with it. It’s an event that is not taught in schools. Why? I don’t know.
I didn’t learn about the racially motivated Internment Camps to restrict the freedoms of Japanese-Americans during World War II either. We learned a fraction of the relocation and atrocities committed against Native Americans by white settlers and Americans, too grievous a list to reference here. Then again until the casinos opened, most folks thought that Native Americans were more historical figures than living peoples. Out of sight, out of mind. I guess that’s what that actress was hoping for with her tweets.
American History books would have us believe that this country was settled in harmony with only a few gunfights, a really cool railroad, the creation of the pony express and some really funny clothes and mustaches, then a few battles as part of the Civil War and once the war was over, we all continued living together happily until the 1950’s when we became a society divided again (for some unknown reason that nobody remembers I’m sure…) leading to Rosa Parks being the catalyst for the Civil Rights Movement with the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
Every generation does a little bit better, but we have to strive for it to keep progressing as parents, as industry, as a society, as a country. Dr King said it best in his historic I Have A Dream speech “I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character”. While I have always been moved by, believed in and agreed with that sentiment, we need to remember it just as much now as on that historic day in August 1963 on the the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
I am constantly judged by those who see me as a caucasian woman, when the reality is that I am a genderfluid individual who only racially identifies as human, formerly married to an Afro-Cuban man for 10 years (which was illegal within my own lifetime btw) and is someone who has family and friends in every color of the rainbow and every position along the gender spectrum. That’s not to say I’m not free of prejudice, not even close. What it means that race and gender are not my identity nor is it my sole scope of experience for viewing the world around me; and as I recognize these flaws within myself, that awareness allows me to target it for removal like radiation directed toward cancer cells.. but only if I choose to do so.
Hate is a cancer of the human soul and prejudice is only one of its symptoms. As we’ve seen in the past year racially motivated crime at an all-time visibility. Understand that because of our changes in technology, these injustices are more visible than ever before, and with it comes the demand for accountability and change.
Please recognize that these are far from the only injustices that are occurring. Young vets coming back are dealing with having to fight not only for their earned benefits but the continuing the fight they’d thought they’d left being as it haunts them constantly, creating an unprecedented veteran suicide reaching record numbers that this country has never seen before.
Transgender individuals, both adult and youths are assaulted and murdered daily, make up a majority of the homeless population as backs are turned on them at every turn and maintain a suicide rate of over 40%. These two things in particular you don’t see on mainstream news because they don’t feed the fires of racial tensions and controversy, instead they breed empathy and compassion. That doesn’t sell advertising.
The honest truth of the matter is that it’s going to take many more generations of Americans to water down and weed out experiences known as daily reality for many, many people in this nation both past and present, but it takes work, and a lot of it. There is no room for complacency, the old adage is true “if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem”.
We as a nation and a society need to be proactive in repairing the current wounds and old scars of injustice for ALL of our citizens, not just the majority and the underserved need to be sought out. Trust needs to be built, that’s the hardest part, and the nightly news makes sure to work against that because that’s how they get viewers and sell advertising.
So please look to the disparity around you and know that you can be the catalyst for change. Compassion and empathy can make the difference in whether someone continues living or chooses dying. Never forget that Rosa Parks wasn’t some visionary radical, she was a woman tired from a long day at work whose feet hurt. Even the smallest pebbles can create the biggest ripples, you can be a superhero, all you have to do is use your powers for good.
I can appreciate an off the wall thought process because I have an odd thought process as well (thank you ADD). But to come off with such a horrific idea and then share it publicly… damn. Usually, when someone is spewing bullsh*t off the top of their head, a.k.a. Freudian slips, it’s a good indicator of their character.
I thought that we Americans learned our lesson about internment camps and concentration camps but apparently, I was wrong unfortunately
This woman needs to be educated, a lot and fast. Representatives as, well as those in governance in this country should have common sense and they should be intelligent enough to A) Think their ideas out before spewing them as soon as it hits their brain and B) Should have enough intelligence and understanding of basic human rights to do the job of representing their constituents and not aspiring to be babysitters or zookeeper.
Afterall that’s why we have elections, debates, etc. to weed out the idiots and the extremists. Then again the last election totally blew that theory out of the water. That’s number 14. Go down the list and see how many you can check off because I got 14/14.
I have been saying for years that our country was leaning more and more towards fascism, and it is more and more visible as time goes on. Just last week there was something that made it seem as though if they get their way, we’ll be wearing rainbow patches instead of yellow six-pointed Stars of David to single us out, and frankly since we already wear them anyway as a a way to show pride and solidarity, so we’re pretty easy to spot.
I pray that there will be a day when our government will stop bullying people
I looked it up on Google Maps and the historic Stonewall Inn is just 7.1 miles from my childhood home. On my 3rd birthday in the summer of ’69, after I was well asleep in my bed the grown folks were enjoying a cold drink on a hot summer night, history was about to be changed forever. A poorly planned police raid would be the catalyst that changed our world, kicking off the visibility of the LGBTQ civil rights movement.
What started as a 1 a.m. raid, grew exponentially as word got out and continued to grow throughout the day. By the evening, June 28th, 1969 would be remembered forever as the day that Pride day was born and though the Stonewall riot was credited to transwomen Sylvia Rivera and Martha P. Johnson, it was only recognized as a “gay movement” for a very long time.
We thankfully as things have progressed, our Rainbow Tribe has expanded the recognition of who makes up our family and as being inclusive in Pride and the equality movement. We are LGBTQIA -Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual. And while yes, the word queer traditionally has been used only in derogatory connotations, the community has retaken the word for our own purpose as a catchall to make an inclusive reference to the community.
Trans folks are anyone who doesn’t fully identify with their “assigned gender at birth” based on our visible genitalia. I say visible because many intersex children are born appearing as boys, but will, later on, be found to have female sex organs discovered. Intersex is an umbrella term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male.
Sadly, many parents opt to have their children surgically altered so that they don’t have to “explain” to others that their son is “different”. Ironically it’s medically easier to have their son become their daughter, but of course, that leaves that awkward part for parents to explain that their child is beautiful, loved and a blessing. Thankfully the trend is changing and parents are allowing their child to grow up, without being forcibly mutilated so they can decide how to proceed as they get older.
I identify as genderqueer/genderfluid. Genderqueer is the word describing someone who doesn’t fully identify as a girl/woman or boy/man. While I was born as a member of the female sex because of my plumbing and sex organs, I have never really identified as a girl. I was called a tomboy growing up and that didn’t sit right with me either and I knew I wasn’t a boy.
Genderfluid becomes even a bit more confusing because sometimes I feel very feminine, usually brought out by someone around me that is very masculine, other times I feel more masculine, I carry myself differently, my demeanor is more forward. Other times I’m just me… no discernible gender, just me.
We’ve all heard of people who feel that they are one gender trapped inside a body with the organs of the opposite sex. However, those of us in that gray area in the middle (and we are the majority in the trans community) have a really hard time figuring ourselves out feeling rather ambiguous and undefinable.
These are all new words to me, discovered just a few short years ago at the age of 47. This “label” did not confine me, it freed me. It allowed me to understand parts of myself, my identity, that just didn’t fit anywhere. I now know that I am not alone, and I am not different, I have a community of people who deal with the same things I do. Other people, and probably you know as well, finally have a means of identity.
The best way that I have found to describe being transgender is the body is the sex, and the gender is the soul. And while many argue that “God doesn’t make mistakes”, the fact of the matter is that human bodies do. There is no rule that says that babies are born perfect. They are born with disease, deformities, and various other medical anomalies. That is the human body, it is ruled by science… the science of the genetics passed on to them, the science of their given environment during gestation, etc.
I’m sure that you have seen or met someone with physical issues from birth that leave a child handicapped in one way or another, but that child’s soul is intact. In their head, in their heart, in their smile and personality, you know they are an incredible person, regardless of their issues, or sometimes even in spite of their issue. This is no different.
We’ve all seen variations of the Freaky Friday movies.. It’s always mother and daughter, father and son, and in a favorite of mine starting George Burns, grandfather and grandson. It’s all good for a laugh, when they see their body as different and scream in the mirror, even when Tom Hanks was BIG! A transgender person sees themselves in the mirror or in the shower the same way, as something very shocking that upsets them greatly, as something possibly deformed and very wrong… like waking up in the wrong body. An image in the mirror or the shower, that does not match what their perception of how they feel they look. This is where transgender folks struggle all the time, detesting and disgusted with their physical appearance that no diet or exercise can change.
Hell, think of the kid in A Christmas Story, (“you’ll shoot your eye out!”) when he had to try on that humiliating bunny suit. An odd comparison I know, but surely one we all can identify with, having some moment in our past where we’ve been under the spotlight and bubbling over with anxiety, and feeling uncomfortably self-conscious. Now imagine what it would feel like to be born feeling that way about your body and appearance, without people getting to see or know you for who you are instead of how you look.
And when you try to shed some of those layers, to break free of the prison that confined and tortured you, then you deal with people spewing hate, vitriol, and even violence because you had the audacity to show your true self to them. And not just strangers and acquaintances, people who have been close friends, family members, living in a situation of constant bullying. People who should be supportive and mentoring turn into tormentors. Parents should never be their child’s first bully, and should not emotional abuse or abandon their child. EVER.
The trans community has a 42% suicide rate, the numbers for self harm are staggering and transgender TEENS make up the make up a lion’s share of this country’s homeless population, left in abject poverty, drugs and both physical and sexual abuse.
It’s time to stop this. You can make a difference. Citizens shouldn’t just be celebrating pride of self and community for only one month a year, and they shouldn’t have to shed any signs of that celebration before traveling home to keep them from deal with harassment, assault, and possibly lose their life.
This country is supposed to be where “all men are created equal”, The Great Melting Pot, yet trans women are beaten and killed every day. We are Americans, we are one and we should all be recognizing that all citizens have the right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, not just in the area of marriage equality, but in employment, housing, and just being living from day to day. We’re worried from day to day about what can happen to us from outside forces, so we need to band together and not target our own citizens.
The Trans Lifeline, they are a 24/7 hotline for transgender people in crisis, along with just learning more about about transgender people and related political issues. And by all means check out some of the other top organizations that work tirelessly to support the queer community. Consider a donation, a purchase or volunteering in your area!
Thanks for taking the time to read this and show you care. Just learning more about the topic enables you to be a strong ally for friends, family and coworkers who are LGBTQIA. I encourage you to share this with others. No one can have too many friends or allies.
And to my family members of the LGBTQIA Rainbow Tribe, I love you and we’re going to do this, together. Let me hear your voices below!
LaSha I wish I could look you in the eyes and honestly tell you that you’re wrong, that you’re too cynical and the world and our country is a much better place; but the truth is… I can’t. You articulated your collective existence better than anyone I’ve heard or read to date.
I was born the year Stokely Carmichael coined the phrase “black power”, two years before I would have been legally allowed to marry my ex-husband, three years to the day before the Stonewall Inn raid and subsequent riot. And while I am a white female, my mother growing up mostly in Texas, made sure that I was versed in the reality of our nation and it’s citizens.
This is something I have made a point of instilling to my daughter (also white), the kid who was the only white kid at daycare that would come home crying because she couldn’t have pink lotion and pretty beads in her hair.
Her first introduction that hit home was when Nickelodeon started running PSAs about tolerance and racial differences, because she’d never seen other humans as anything other than human before that moment. She was six. She didn’t grasp the depth of it until after I remarried and she was referring to her Afro-Cuban stepfather as Daddy, since he was the only one she’d ever known.
For a while, he worked at a large retail store and every time we’d shop there, the old white guy at the door would stop us to inspect our receipt while my husband made booming comments about the racist at the door and his behavior.
Finally, my daughter and I shopped at that store by ourselves, that same guy was working the door and this time he waved us through with a smile before returning to his usual scowl to stop the black customers behind us. It was at that moment my heart completely broke as she looked at me with tears in her eyes and said “Oh my god, Daddy was right.”
LaSha I also would like to commend you for highlighting and articulating the difference between having issues with the situation and having a personal connection to them. That is a huge distinction and one that is rarely pointed out.
I became pregnant during the course of my marriage and after the initial shock of finding out that I was pregnant on my daughter’s 16th birthday wore off, panic of all that you’ve described immediately set in. The realization of the world that my second child would live in compared to their older sister was very overwhelming and I fixated on the fact that someday someone would refer to my child with the N-word, was for lack of a better word – horrific.
Just having loyalty to black friends (and the human race) made me want to bludgeon people and tear out their throats for using that word, now this would be directed at my child. When I heard a fellow employee use the word, in earshot of customers, I demanded that she be terminated. Instead I was informed that the white district manager had decided that I “wasn’t entitled or allowed to be offended by that word – because you’re white”.
It’s my opinion that the world should be taught to be offended by that word because of the history and hate it represents. To be told that I’m not entitled to be offended because of my skin color (much less without knowing my personal attachments), to me was reprehensible. I quit my job after 9 years with that company.
Sadly my pregnancy did not have a happy ending. A few months later, still grieving, my old neighbor called me after my overnight shift asking for an emergency favor. Her father had passed and the only pants that she could wear to the funeral needed to be hemmed because they were 4 inches too long. I offered a half-assed job, nothing more, not feeling particularly motivated since she only called when she needed something but willing to do so because of why it was necessary.
As I was working on the stitching, she sat next to my husband who was laying on the couch watching tv (he had just finished an overnight shift as well) and my daughter sitting next to me and assisting. The former neighbor was blathering on about her family gossip while I struggled to focus on the stitching as my eyes were rolling up into my head. She gets to the story about her white niece calling her black stepfather (also one of the few decent people in the family) by that word. I immediately had to clench to contain myself. I commented that the niece had a lot of nerve when she’s the N-word of the group, only for her to reply – “no, she’s not black”. ?!?!?
We’re done, get out.
The realization that my biggest fear had come to life even though my baby didn’t was too much for me to handle. To know that my child would never get to know me or his father or his sister or even have a name.. but was given one that day based on the increased melanin he would have in his skin… was far too much for me to bear when I was still grieving my loss. That’s not to say it sits any better now 8 years later, it still twists my guts in a knot, but you’re right, now it’s personal and will be to the end of my days.
So while I’ve been a staunch support of the civil rights movement as well as a part of it, not only being female but LGBTQ as well, the fight and the contemptible actions hurt even more and cut much deeper than they used to. Sadly I don’t think we’ll ever see all the changes that need to take place until everyone is affected by it personally.
It is with a heavy heart that I offer Safe Passage to 17 year old Skylar Lee, of Madison, WI, who took his own life on this day ~ September 28, 2015. An active and powerful rising voice in the LGBTQ community, his light will be dearly missed. ~ Adam Lodestone
These words were spoken just yesterday, this time for Skylar Lee, the latest casualty in the silent war on the Transgender citizens of this country. Trans* people are killed everyday from hatred, disgust, lack of compassion, lack of empathy, violence, bullying, and abuse, by complete strangers or by their own hands.
Transgender youth aren’t just under served, they are virtually invisible on the American media landscape. There are no ice bucket challenges, no buying a cute little cutout at the grocery or gas station, no races to keep these kids off the streets when families turn their backs and send them out into the world unprepared with nowhere to go and no clue how to survive.
According to a research report issued by UCLA’s Williams Institute, based on the results from the respondents of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS). The survey was conducted in a joint effort of the National Gay and Lesbian Task force and the National Center for Transgender Equality. The findings are both staggering and heartbreaking.
Respondents who experienced rejection by family and friends, discrimination, victimization, or violence had elevated prevalence of suicide attempts, such as those who experienced the following:
Family chose not to speak/spend time with them: 57%
Discrimination, victimization, or violence at school, at work, and when accessing health care
Harassed or bullied at school (any level): 50-54%
Experienced discrimination or harassment at work: 50-59%
Doctor or health care provider refused to treat them: 60%
Suffered physical or sexual violence:
At work: 64-65%
At school (any level): 63-78%
Discrimination, victimization, or violence by law enforcement
Disrespected or harassed by law enforcement officers: 57-61%
Suffered physical or sexual violence: By law enforcement officers: 60-70%
Experienced homelessness: 69%
Family Transcends is a fledgling nonprofit organization that is being built from the ashes of these staggering statistics of losses of life. Its senior staff have a set, sole focus to creating sibling-style mentoring partnerships, much like Big Brothers/Big Sisters, specifically aimed at at-risk transgender youth; understanding their unique and additional need for understanding, which greatly surpasses that of the average youth. With the intent of saving lives, Family Transcends mentoring and support structure , will be able to immediately impact the current suicide rates. Transgender suicide in this country accounts for over 45% of national deaths while the national average is less than 5%.
For those following me for a while, you’ll notice several changes with my blog. Starting with the name but especially the content. The things that are dear to my heart that I am passionate about are what I prefer to write as they are labors of love not tasks or obligations. I am both pleased and proud to announce that I am a contributing writer for their blog site Family Transcends News where this piece will be shared, along with volunteering in other ways to help get their program up and running.
In his own words from the Power In Partnerships publication:
WE CANNOT SEPARATE THE CONVERSATION BETWEEN RACIAL JUSTICE AND LGBTQ JUSTICE when our oppression and liberation are interconnected with one another. Our identities are intersectional simply because we exist; to say that they are separate enforces White supremacy, creating a culture where it is acceptable for queer and trans POC to be invisible and pushed out of society. We must understand intersectionality to truly be a united force in the fight to dismantle these systems of oppression.
Being East-Asian, specifically Korean, with light skin, able-bodied, and being born a citizen of the U.S., I experience a huge privilege within our education system. I understand that if I was not queer and trans, I would not have been impacted by the pipeline. I also understand that I have still not been as severely impacted by the pipeline as those whom I share community with.
In my activism in racial justice and queer justice, I work with queer youth of color every day who have experienced push out or are actively being pushed out of school. The direct and indirect ways the School-to-Prison Pipeline have impacted me gives me greater awareness to the urgency of creating programs to combat the pipeline.
It is not justice if we leave behind members of our communities. It is not justice if we ignore the interconnected oppression of those we share community with. It is compliance to the systems that tell us we must fight against each other to uplift our own identity. To dismantle systems of oppression, we must be more creative than our oppressors. We are all socialized to protect these systems, a thought pattern we must actively fight against every moment. One cannot dismantle a system by working within it; rather, one must break outside the limitations of the system itself.
To begin the journey to unification, we must actively and loudly address our own privilege, power, and prejudice. No one can do this perfectly, including myself. We make mistakes, and it is never easy. However, we must never shy away from talking about intersectionality in our activism, for that is exactly what the systems have socialized us all to do. If we do not actively have these hard conversations around racial and queer identities, they will never be addressed nor recognized, and the systems will only maintain their power. I challenge everyone to start their own journey to self-awareness and actively participate in these conversations revolving around racial justice and queer justice. ~ Skylar Lee
This country has lost too many people to the hands of inflicted sorrow, anguish and torture. These victims are our kids.
I will not feel remorse for expressing my own personal commentary that if you can turn your child away for the way he was born due to your own genetics, you shouldn’t have been a parent in the first place; You are an unfit parent and I pity any remaining children in the home.
Demand that this news is news, that we recognize it for the national epidemic that it is and work our hardest to eradicate these staggering statistics. If you are interested in donating time, talent or funds to Family Transcends to help get them up and running, please click on the link here, or connect with another organization locally or nationally; all of whom would be grateful for your caring just as much as your efforts. We can handle this problem, but we need to be aware of it and we need to want to. Please help to keep another Skylar Lee or Leelah Alcorn from becoming an invisible statistic.