Even the least of these

This weekend the world was reminded, very starkly, of the consequences of devaluing human life. And for almost 200 people in Paris, the consequence was a terrifying death. Even as I type this the French Air Force is bombing territory controlled by ISIS, and no doubt thousands of innocent lives will be lost in Syria this evening. Violence is not limited to France or Syria. Indeed, violent acts of terror have been occurring all around the Middle East. And in our own freedom loving United States, Islamophobia and xenophobia are rearing their ugly heads in the form of anti-refugee Facebook posts by citizens and pundits alike.

In the transgender community we are no stranger to acts of violence and terror directed at us. Indeed, a reality that we face every day when we cross our own threshold is that we may never cross it again. Just this year 25 trans women (many of them women of color) have died as the result of transphobic violence. Moreover, many of their assailants have gotten off with light sentences. Because in the United States we do not value the lives of trans women and men. Indeed, currently there are no Federal laws protecting trans people from workplace, housing, or healthcare discrimination. Only a few states protect trans people, and even fewer classify violence against trans people as a hate crime. For trans people living in these pockets of America which protect them, conditions are adequate. For trans people living outside of these pockets, they are abysmal.

You do not need to go far to find stories of trans women and men who have been denied dignity in hospitals in courtrooms. In the United States, trans people cannot get the basic healthcare they need to transition because it is not covered by most health insurance plans. The cost of transitioning ranges in the tens of thousands, and most trans people cannot afford to pay these costs. Yet without them, most states will not allow for gender markers to be changed on identification or birth certificates. Even worse, many medical professionals are not well trained in how to interact with trans patients and treat them with respect and dignity. Injustice is not confined to hospitals, it is also found inside the courtroom and statehouse. Indeed, just a few months ago, a trans woman Britain was sentence to a male prison (she was later moved, however, after public outcry). Moreover, the citizens of Houston recently overturned a city ordinance which would have provided protects to transgender citizens. The failure to protect this bill was based on transphobic scare tactics from the opposition.

We have a lot of problems here in the United States and in the State of North Dakota. Mental health care is far from adequate. The economy is dismal. There are wars and rumors of war. Our infrastructure is crumbling. Women’s health is in crisis. There are indeed many pressing issues that need to be attended to. And at the bottom of the heap of work we have to do are the voices of trans men and women calling out for help from their cisgender brothers and sisters. And our voices are going unheard.

While mental healthcare is far from adequate, it exists throughout the country. While the economy is dismal, it is slowly recovering. While there are wars and rumors of wars, there are those fighting for peace and diplomacy all over the world. While our infrastructure is crumbling, states are working to fill the holes. While women’s health is in crisis, there are still clinics providing essential services to women in need. While we have many pressing issues to face as a society, how can we claim to be striving for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness when even the least of our brothers and sisters go unnoticed and underserved? Because as it stands there are few Federal and State programs specifically addressing the needs of the trans community. There are few non-profit organizations specifically devoted to serving trans needs. And the ones that do exist need funds and they need help.

What can you do to help? The first thing you can do is learn more about the transgender community. Armed with knowledge your next step is to hold our local, state, and federal leaders accountable for building our communities into places where all people are valued, welcomed, and provided the full protection of the law. Time and time again I’ve heard people tell me they vote for the economy. What that tells me is that money is more important than me. It’s more important than Leelah. More important than Kiesha. More important than Bri.

This Friday, my community will be commemorating our dead and celebrating the bright future we have ahead. Transgender Day of Remembrance exists to remind us of where we have come from, and where we hope to go. I hope that you will hear our cry and reach out a hand of solidarity and help.

Go into the world and make no peace with oppression. Be kind to one another and love each other.
Please know that you are valuable. If you are in crisis, please click here.