The focus of Transgender Awareness Week has been Transgender Day of Remembrance, which I will attempt to properly observe tomorrow (I expect to begin in the morning, but I live on the West Coast now).
Started by Gwen Ann Smith in 1999 with a candlelight vigil to remember the still unsolved murder of transgender woman Rita Hester on November 28, 1998, TDoR is intended to memorialize those who were killed due to transgender hatred or prejudice, but it has tended to include all transgendered people who have been murdered for whatever reason. During the past year there have been 74 transgendered people murdered, whose stories I shall attempt to share tomorrow.
But each one of the murdered listed on
We know that over 40% of transgender people have attempted suicide.
Now the attempted suicide rate among transgender people has often been used to paint us as being inherently mentally unstable when we come calling for full inclusion into human society. But the truth is the high suicide attempt rate can be largely laid at the feet of families who have ejected transgender members, harassment and victimization at schools, work, and when accessing healthcare and discrimination, and violence and victimization by law enforcement.
It is important to bear in mind that the rate of attempted suicides is not the same as the rate of completed suicides. Indeed
Finally, it should be emphasized that the NTDS,
like all similar surveys, captured information about suicide attempts, not completed suicide. Lacking any information about completed suicide among transgender people (due primarily to decedents not being identified by gender identity or transgender status), it may be tempting to consider suicide attempt data to be the best available proxy measure of suicide death. Data from the U.S. population at large, however, show clear demographic differences between suicide attempters and those who die by suicide. While almost 80 percent of all suicide deaths occur among males, about 75 percent of suicide attempts are made by females. Adolescents, who overall have a relatively low suicide rate of about 7 per 100,000 people, account for a substantial proportion of suicide attempts, making perhaps 100 or more attempts for every suicide death. By contrast, the elderly have a much higher suicide rate of about 15 per 100,000, but make only four attempts for every completed suicide. Although making a suicide attempt generally increases the risk of subsequent suicidal behavior, six separate studies that have followed suicide attempters for periods of five to 37 years found death by suicide to occur in 7 to 13 percent of the samples (Tidemalm et al., 2008). We do not know whether these general population patterns hold true for transgender people but in the absence of supporting data, we should be especially careful not to extrapolate findings about suicide attempts among transgender adults to imply conclusions about completed suicide in this population.
And then there is neglect. We do not know how many die each year because they have become homeless and could find no shelter or program which accepts transpeople when the weather turns harsh and/or the food runs out. We do not know how many die because the medical treatment they receive is compromised by prejudice (or even withheld because of the fear of catching transgender cooties). Indeed, we don't even know how to count these instances, let alone how to put faces on most of them. Cases such as that of Tyra Hunter, a 24-year-old transgender hair stylist who was injured in a car accident on the morning of August 7, 1995 do not stand alone. EMTs at the scene of that accident uttered derogatory comments and withdrew medical care after they discovered that she had male genitals. Subsequently, the ER staff at DC General Hospital did almost nothing to attempt to resuscitate her as she was dying from internal bleeding because they did not consider her life worth saving.
I go back a ways to bring this forward: Throw Away Kids
Data from the 2005 and 2007 Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Surveys (YRBS), which surveyed 6,317 Massachusetts public high school students in grades 9 through 12, reveal the following:
- Overall, less than 5 percent of students identified as GLB, yet they made up 19 percent of those identifying as homeless;
- Homelessness among heterosexual students came in at 3.2 percent. This rate increased to 15 percent among bisexual students, and 25 percent among lesbian/gay students;
- Homelessness among those unsure of their sexual orientation was also disproportionately high at 20 percent;
- Fifteen percent of male teens identifying as gay were unaccompanied by parents/guardians, while just 8 percent were homeless but living with a parent;
- Among girls identifying as lesbian, 22.5 percent were homeless without parental or guardian supervision. Similar trends were found for bisexuals and those unsure of their sexual orientation.
Although this study ignored trans youth, we know that that segment of our population is at even higher risk of homelessness, especially transkids of color.
And because of a lesser tolerance for bisexual and transgender youth, they are at a disproportionately higher risk of becoming homeless.
--"Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth: An Epidemic of Homelessness", National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, June 2006
Rev. Munroe has written about this before. On one occasion, she got the following response at The Black Commentator:
Given that our resources are tight & these youth are not at all psychologically prepared for our liberation struggle, they are expendable. Such are the realities of war. It’s gonna take all of our resources to salvage the heterosexual youth, who will hopefully form strong, loving, heterosexual relationships & produce healthy children. This is how we will produce a strong black nation/community. The dysfunctional youth you are asking us to rescue cannot/will not be able to make the contribution we need, so they are expendable.
The resulting deaths...and the lives that preceded them also need to be remembered.