It's Transgender Awareness Week, which will culminate on Friday with Transgender Day of Remembrance. That's the day we put aside to enumerate or losses through murders over the past year.
The truth, which we sometimes try to avoid, is that we lose just as many to suicide every year. We try to avoid it because, as Bynn Tannehill puts it, "Those who want to drive transgender people into the closet, legislate against us, and stigmatize us, talk about it all the time in order further marginalize us. It is literally a matter of life and death."
People know that transgender people are at a higher risk of suicide, but why this risk is higher is often not understood by the public, or misused by people who wish us further harm. The statistic that 40% of transgender people have attempted suicide is used all the time to justify all sorts of things that have absolutely zero basis in science.
Why we are at greater risk has been studied more than anything else abut us. The major factors?
- Rejection by friends and family increases suicide risk.
- Discrimination increases suicide risk.
- Physical abuse increases suicide risk.
- Being seen as transgender or gender non-conforming (i.e. not "passing") increases suicide risk.
This is perhaps the most damning study, since it strongly suggests that when transgender people are treated the same as cisgender (non-transgender) people, the risk of suicide becomes no different than for anyone else.
- Internalized transphobia increases suicide risk.
Internalized transphobia is when a transgender individual applies negative messages about transgender people in general to themselves. It's not hard to find such messages in our culture, especially since a multi-million dollar smear campaign in Houston successfully convinced an uninformed populace that transgender people should be treated like rapists and pedophiles. When transgender people start applying such messages to themselves, the suicide attempt rate skyrockets.
- Intersecting minority identities increases suicide risk.
Notice a pattern here? None of these risks for suicide are about being transgender. They're about what is being done to transgender people. And therein lies the rub.
There's nothing inherently wrong with being transgender .
There is something horribly, horribly wrong with the way we as a culture treat transgender people.
[P]eople who push for discrimination against transgender misuse studies, and use "experts" who are proponents of reparative therapy for all LGBT people, and haven't seen a transgender patient in 35 years. Their so-called logic is that if people weren't transgender and didn't transition, they wouldn't commit suicide. This is the intellectual equivalent of suggesting we should prevent rape by making women wear burqas, chastity belts, and never letting them leave the house.
The following list is way, way, way incomplete. We know that. Many are misgendered after we die. Consider it an illustration of the problem.
The following 20 trans people ended their own lives in 2015:
January 5. 2015: Eylul Cansin, 23, Turkey
February 11, 2015: Melonie Rose, 19, Laurel, Maryland
February 15, 2015: Zander Mahaffey, 15, Austell, Georgia
February 24, 2015: Aubrey Mariko Shine, 22, San Francisco
February 26, 2015: Ash Haffner, 16, Charlotte, North Carolina
March 2, 2015: Sage David, late teens, Oceanside, California
March 15, 2015: Taylor Wells, 18, Springfield, Illinois
March 23, 2015: Blake Brockington, 18, Charlotte, North Carolina
March 28, 2015: Ezra Page, 15, Claremont, California
April 2, 2015: Taylor Alesana, 16, Fallbrook, California
April 9, 2015: Sam Taub, 15, West Bloomfield, Michigan
April 28, 2015: Rachel Bryk, 23, Wall, New Jersey
May 1, 2015: Cameron Langrell, 15, Racine Wisconsin
May 18, 2015: Kyler Prescott, 14, San Diego, California
June 24, 2015: Jess Ships, 31, Veteran
June 26, 2015: Sam Ehly, 21, Norcross, Georgia
September 28, 2015: Skylar Marcus Lee, 16, Madison, Wisconsin
September 28, 2015: Ryley Courchene, 30, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
October 7, 2015: Emmett Castle, 14, Mission Valley, California
October 14, 2015: Ashley Hallstrom, 26, Logan City, UT
Can't end this way. Some of us do survive: