I think it was hearing about Ashley Hallstrom that put me over the edge. Ashley was a transgender woman who, at age 26, felt that life was so hopeless that her best option was to end her life by stepping in front of a dump truck.
I am so angry right now, I can’t think straight. Not at her, but at a society who just doesn’t give a damn about transgender people.
As if to add an exclamation point to that statement, the very next day Zella Ziona, a 21-year-old trans woman was shot in the head in an alley behind a laundromat in Gaithersburg, Md. She was the 22nd transgender homicide victim of 2015.
That is 22 sons and daughters, cousins and friends — 22 individuals who would probably have preferred to be left alone to live their lives, difficult though they may have been, without being gunned down, strangled, beaten or set on fire.
What the fuck is the matter with people? Why are trans lives so worthless to them?
I’m honestly not sure whether I’m bothered more by the murders or the suicides. Either way, trans people are dying — a lot of them — and few seem to care or even notice.
Whether you are aware of it or not, Dallas is a small little oasis for trans people. While we may not be embraced here, at least we have access to things that few others have. I will get into those things in a second, right after I remind you that Shade Schuler’s body was discovered on July 29 in Dallas, so no place is perfect.
What seems to break my heart most about those who take their own lives is that society has made things so hopeless that stepping in front of a truck seems the only answer. Leelah Alcorn did exactly that last December, just after Christmas.
Are things really that hopeless or hostile? Yes, as a matter of fact they are. Here are just a few things that we as trans people have to deal with that others don’t:
When someone comes out as transgender, we change how we present ourselves to the world. I have yet to have a gay friend come out to me and have it be a surprise. When trans people come out, it is often a shock. When we change genders, we change nearly everything, including our names and the gender markers on our identity documents. Or at least we try to.
Anybody know how many judges in the whole state of Texas will sign one of those? Out of more than 500 civil court judges in the state, only about 15 will routinely sign an order changing your gender marker — and the vast majority of them are in Dallas County.
Tarrant County will not even let you FILE a petition to change your name and gender. Denton County? Not one single judge will sign one. Collin County? Maybe on a rare occasion.
If you live in the Panhandle or a rural county and are transgender, you’re screwed.
How much does that suck? Try changing from James to Cynthia but still having a “M” as your gender marker on your I.D. You get outed every time you show your I.D.
The state of Texas is NOT friendly towards the trans community. Matter of fact, during the most recent legislative session there were four bills put forth trying to criminalize bathroom usage by trans people. There are people spending money in Houston trying to defeat the Equal Rights Ordinance using fear tactics with trans people at the center.
To those people I say, YOU are costing people their lives. YOU are making things seem hopeless. Why can’t you just fix the roads instead of worrying about whether or not I know which bathroom to use?
A friend of mine that is a trans woman in New Jersey working as a model was outed by the police when they printed her name and gender information on a public website, causing her car to be vandalized and her to receive death threats. Police and media routinely mis-gender trans victims of crime.
No wonder things seem hopeless. Trans people are often rejected by family members, rejected and ridiculed by the faith community. Churches recommend “conversion therapy” to try and convince someone who is 100 percent certain of who they are that they are wrong.
(This doesn’t work, by the way.)
The Obama administration would like to see conversion therapy go the way of the dodo bird, but Republican lawmakers want to keep it around so they don’t offend the religious sensibilities of their constituents. After all, God would be proud to have you mentally abuse your children by trying to shatter their sense of identity.
Schools can also be a horrendous source of bullying. That needs to stop.
Ashley Hallstrom had been living as a woman for six years, yet her therapist had only recently granted her the letter she needed to get her surgery. The whole “gatekeeper” mentality to life-saving healthcare needs to come to a stop. Hell, it would be nice if medical schools actually taught something in their curriculum about Trans healthcare, but they don’t.
Transgender people face an uphill battle under the very best of circumstances. If we transition after puberty, we are dealing with a body that has betrayed us, and it is monumentally difficult, painful and expensive to fix. Adding hatred and bullying from family, school, church, police, city and state laws and our doctors can be just too much to bear.
People are dying!
Depression and hopelessness are a lethal combination. I wish there was something I could say that would matter, that would change hearts and minds.
We aren’t deviants or freaks. We are just like you. We want the same things you do. We laugh, we fall in love, we dine out, we listen to music. We want a piece of the American dream just like you do.
Please, we need to give hope to those who feel hopeless. My heart is breaking for those who just give up. Two years ago, I went to the Transgender Day of Remembrance at Cathedral of Hope. As we laid rose after rose on the altar and heard the hundreds of names of transgender murder victims and the gruesome way they died, I cried until I just couldn’t cry anymore. Last year, I didn’t go. I just can’t take it.
Until we can figure out why the state of Texas has a bulls eye on us, or why the Baptist church thinks Jesus has it in for us, or why people feel the need to kill us because of who we are, the best I can do is to please ask you to get help if you are feeling hopeless.
There is a number you can call: Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860. There are people on the other end who understand. Please call them.
I care about you and want you to live. You matter. I hope things get better. Until then, hang on a little longer.
Leslie McMurray, a transgender woman, is a former radio DJ who lives and works in Dallas. Read more of her blogs at lesliemichelle44.wordpress.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 23, 2015.