TW: discussion of murdered trans women of color, suicide, and abuse. This is a companion essay to today’s poetry, made possible by my generous Patreon backers.
I just saw my endocrinologist to adjust my hormone therapy. (I missed the bus and had to take a Lyft. Luckily a genial driver was passing by.) We decided to add some progesterone patches to my current regimen, and she helped me figure out what I need to do to start scheduling an orchiectomy. I didn’t have to pay; my state insurance covered the visit.
I waited, shivering, for the bus to take me back into town so I could have lunch and coffee. Walking in, I saw two white femmes caressing each other’s faces. I ate my fill, paid with money I earned writing.
And then I went home and wrote a poem and cried, because there are so many of our dead who deserve these blessings more than I do. I wish I could take Keke Collier by the hand and buy her coffee after a long night of studying for her medical school exams, I wish I could go to one of Chyna Gibson’s drag shows, I wish I could help Mx. Bostick find someplace safe to stay.
But none of those words mean anything. There’s nothing to be done for any of them. And every day, I wonder if I’m doing enough to prevent others from ending up like them. I don’t think I am. I don’t think I ever will. There’s too much to do, so far to go.
Visibility is a blessing for most white trans women like me, and for most transmasculine people as well. It’s more akin to a curse for trans women and transfeminine people of color, particularly Black and indigenous trans women and two-spirit people. Trans issues are more prevalent than ever before, and our visibility enabled me to start my own transition and revitalize my career. But trans women of color are being murdered in increasing numbers every year — or at least, we’re properly identifying them more frequently.
We’ll never know exactly how many trans people were killed this year. Often, murdered trans women are recorded as men, their true identities only discovered weeks or months later; the “official” TDOR count also doesn’t gather data on trans people who die by suicide, although we attempt it in overwhelming numbers due to prolonged emotional abuse from our friends, families, and cultures. The true scope of this problem is virtually unknowable.
I wish I could say that things are getting better. I want to tell you that I see people learning from stories about the lives we’ve lost. But like mass shootings, Americans — including white trans people — are growing numb to stories of murdered trans women of color. Those of us who pay attention at all hashtag our grief with #SayHerName and forget about it a few weeks later, just in time for the next story to surface. I don’t have an excuse.
We have to be better. I have to be better, though I barely know how. There has to be a way to stop this. My tears aren’t enough.
If you’re able, please donate today to Trans Lifeline or the Trans Women of Color Collective, or another group in your area that provides resources to trans women of color. You can also search the #TransCrowdFund hashtag on Twitter to find fundraisers for people who are in need. If you plan to attend a TDOR vigil, please look into whether it centers and is organized by trans women of color. And even if you can do neither of those things, remember that every day is an opportunity to help keep someone safe, and that you don’t need an excuse to honor our dead.