It’s been a tough 24 hours.
Yesterday I saw a heartbreaking post from a mother in the US. She shared simply and starkly that her daughter had taken her life.
It is my worst nightmare, summed up in thirteen words from a woman I have never met. Her pain came through the screen of my phone.
Jeremy is finding that, despite thirteen months of testosterone treatment, he is still misgendered. He is struggling with multiple issues. I worry that the internal struggle is being heightened by the constant barrage of public opinion, face to face and in the media, that he feels like he is a square peg in a world of round holes. I worry that despite my best efforts, I am “just mum” and my love and support will not be enough to keep him here. In the last 24 hours it has been brought home that I am not alone in this fear.
I find myself angry at those who should be leading the way to acceptance. In the US recently there has been a number of bills passed in various states restricting the rights of transgender people. Most notable has been the Bill passed in North Carolina which made it illegal for a person to use a public bathroom unless it is the bathroom that “matches” the gender on their birth certificate.
Let that sink in.
The government is saying that if you are a transgender person, they know better than you which bathroom you can use, plus now they can have you charged for not using the bathroom they say you should use. Since the passing of this bill, I have heard various reasons for this restriction. None of the reasons are based in fact but are being chanted ad nauseam by the wider public.
It is discrimination of the worst, lowest, most narrow minded kind. It plays on the fear of the unknown that I wrote about previously, it encourages the hatred and aggression that is already evident in society about transgender people. But to my mind, most importantly, it invalidates the lives of transgender people. It says to transgender people, regardless of who you are, we know better and you are wrong to think the way that you do.
Here in Australia the conversation is less focused on transgender people and more aimed at the entire LGBTIQ community. We have the extreme conservative right wing politicians getting air time to slander a program designed to educate and familarise young people about LGBTIQ issues. They would prefer the hundreds of millions of dollars that are spent on the chaplaincy program to remain unscrutinised while focusing on the content on this program and citing this as the justification for their vile hatred. Underpinning this is their biased fear that Australia will vote in marriage equality and somehow this will end society as we know it. I hope it does, because our society is a cold place for my child right now.
As parents we seek to shield our children. We sail into battles against bullies and teachers and other parents. We ban sugar and limit tech time and set rules for grandparents.We work hard and set good examples and make meals that contain kale. We trust that when we send our children out into the wider world, and our children follow the rules, dress nicely, speak politely that they will be met with the same respect. But when governments publicly incite hatred by the passing of discriminatory bills or give air space to religious conservatives, the general public follow suit. Not just follow suit but go to extreme measures. The number of posts I have seen, written by people who say “I’ll shoot a transgender if I find them in a bathroom with my daughter”, “I’d bash a transgendered person if I saw them in a public restroom” takes my breath away with the violence and hatred expressed. It is everywhere, it is scary and it’s tolerated and it’s held up as a model of not allowing society to degenerate, of the pushback against acceptance that “needs to happen”.
I’ve said before that I think that these attitudes proliferate because being transgender is so far removed from “ordinary” life that it is easier to hate the different. It is a story repeated over and over again in history and I could be talking about people of colour in the 1950’s or homosexuals in the 1960’s or the hatred aimed at people of the Muslim faith today. So many people have not met a transgender person and so their attitude comes from a faceless fear. That lack of familiarity that leads into hatred and that puts lives at risk and continues to be validated by governments.
Yesterday a mother lost her child. It may not have been preventable. But in my heart I believe that if the public conversation about transgender people was more positive, understanding, one pressure from a young life would have been removed. She would have been confident that society would accept her and that may have changed her mind.
I am angry and I am scared. Transgender youth are the bravest people I know. It kills me how we as a society fail them by not making the world safe for them.