Trans Day of Remembrance. These deaths are not a tragedy.

TDORSite

Vicky Thompson, a 21-year-old trans woman has died after being placed in an all-male prison. This news, sadly and yet ironically, was announced on the evening before Trans Day of Remembrance (TDOR) 2015, and a week after a petition was started for another trans woman to be moved from a male prison.

TDOR is marked annually on November 20th across the world to remember the lives of trans people who have been killed at the hands of anti-transgender violence and hate. ‘Transgender’, more commonly shortened to ‘trans’, is a word used to describe individuals who don’t identify with the gender they were labelled at birth. This year alone 271 murders have been reported, the majority trans women of colour, and trans youth aged 21 and under. This number does not even include those who took their own lives, or those who were not recognised at the time of their death as being the gender they felt.

Vicky Thompson’s death comes after another trans woman petitioned to be moved from an all male prison. Tara Hudson, a 26-year-old trans woman, was sentenced and placed in Bristol prison earlier this year. Her mother, Jackie Brooklyn, feared for her safety and well being as the only female in a men’s prison. The petition received over 150,000 signatures and media attention, since then Ms Hudson has been moved to a female prison. This is now leading to questions about the legality of holding transgender inmates in prisons that don’t reflect their gender identity.

Had Vicky Thompson been in a female prison she may still be alive today.

However these deaths are not a tragedy, one life lost would be tragic, 271 is a humanitarian issue that needs to be dealt with. The number of trans people being murdered is not going down either; in fact it is going up from 226[1] reported murders last year. How many more deaths and acts of violence will it take for change to happen?

Going through the list of trans people who have been brutally murdered makes for an horrific read, with one woman’s body being cut up and parts being boiled on the kitchen stove. No one deserves to die like this, and certainly not for being true to themselves.

Governments and societies across the world need to protect trans lives and recognise them as people with the same level of rights as anyone else. We live in a world where it is still legal to fire someone for changing their gender, to deny the use of the bathroom, and the right to stay married.

We need to educate people and realise our differences are not something we should ostracize ourselves over, but instead come together to learn from and appreciate the characteristics that make us who we are, no matter what these differences are – gender, sexuality, race, religion, ethnicity, creed, or ability.

Shakespeare summarised what it is to be human in his play The Merchant of Venice though the character Shylock, a Jewish man living in a predominantly Christian era. In Shylock’s famous monologue he states, “If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?”

These three questions still are still relevant today and capture what is means to be diverse and yet the same, human.

It is my hope that soon there won’t be the need for a Trans Day of Remembrance or an International Coming Out Day. It would be fantastic if in the next few years we look back on these days and wonder why we ever needed these days. But the realist in me knows that this is a farfetched dream and we are nowhere near that point.

This year has been branded the year of all things trans, with celebrity figures such as Caitlyn Jenner coming out, movies being released with trans narratives. But are we doing it the right way? Stonewall the movie, released earlier this year, supposedly depicted the Stonewall riots which transformed LGBT history, however the film conveniently left out trans women of colour who were at the forefront of the movement. Trans people are dying, and we are erasing their existence. If I sound angry, it is because I am. Trans people deserve for their voices to be heard, their stories to be told in their own words, to express themselves without fear of judgement or abuse.

[1] Source: http://www.transrespect-transphobia.org/en_US/tvt-project/tmm-results/tdor-2014.htm

 

Boys Don’t Cry (2000)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0171804/

Boys Don’t Cry. Well let me tell you, I was stifling tears.

Boys Don’t Cry gives a biographical account on Brandon Teena (Hilary Swank), a young transgender guy pushing the boundaries in the early 90s. It tells the story of the fun he has and trouble he lands himself in after adventuring to Nebraska to escape from the law in his hometown.

This movie is one of the first in its kind, depicting a female-to-male character as the main lead. It shows the real life struggle that some transgender people often have to face, especially in a time period when many people were not even accepting of gay people. You see him struggle with the dislike he has toward his body, his attempts to appear more masculine and just trying to fit in as one of the guys around him.

Hilary Swank plays the role of Brandon extremely well, she handles the part with sensitivity, and it is easy to forget that she is not actually a teenage boy. While filming Hilary Swank had to live her day to life looking like Brandon, so it is hardly surprising that her neighbor assumed it was her teenage son coming and going from the house rather than her. In the movie Swank portrays the unease and awkwardness of someone not feeling at home in their own body, while giving Brandon a cheeky charm about him.

During the movie you find yourself rooting for Brandon, and hoping he doesn’t get found out about being born female, but there is a sense of foreboding throughout. You are just waiting for it to happen and what will happen to him. At times you might think, ‘Oh no, what are you doing? Just go home. Don’t get into a relationship with a girl – you are bound to get found out.’ But you have to bear in mind he was young and human. It’s only natural that he wanted those experiences.

It isn’t the first time I have watched this movie, but it is the first time I made it to the end. The first time I attempted to watch it, I had to stop. Not because it wasn’t a good movie, I think it tells the story well and I like the way it was shot. However, if you have watched the movie you will know the scenes I’m talking about, the bathroom, and car scene that follow, were too much for me. I will add now that this is the point in which I would like to apologize to the people sitting behind me in the cinema as I was sniffling as the tears rolled down my face.

If you liked: Dallas Buyers Club, Tomboy, or are specifically looking for a LGBT themed movie then this is for you. Although, if you are prone to crying at movies – have some tissues at hand.

*I have referred to Brandon Teena throughout this review as Brandon and with male pronouns, ‘he’, as he was a real person and it is how he wanted to be known.