With the announcement of Thomas's second pregnancy, and the death of Duanna Johnson (RIP), I have had occasion to discuss the lives of the transgender community with various people that I interact with. What I have come to realize is that so many don't understand the ways in which their negative language, and abuse leads to the death of so many.
What astounds me is that the same people who would be shocked and angered to hear someone use a racial epithet, have no problem referring to a trans woman as a man. Hearing someone utter the word nigger would blind them with rage, but yet the word transvestite falls off their lips like it is nothing.
When I was looking through the list of victims for TDOR, I could not help but notice that many of the victims were of colour. I have heard about the connection between race, and crimes against the trans community, but reading the list made it so concrete to me. The connection is real. This stunned me into silence.
As these people spread the ignorance, laughing and cackling like hyenas about trannies, what they fail to recognize is that they are minimizing the death of POC. If your blackness and culture means so much to you, how can you laugh at this? It's not funny. It is not amusing.
Someone once asked me why I care so much. They told me that, "I was a normal woman", and they could not understand why I "cared about the freaks"... The answer is quite simple really. When I see a trans woman, I really don't see any difference between her and I. To me she is a woman struggling just like I am to make it in a world that tells us that we are less than. I see our shared struggle; and I see sisterhood and solidarity. To know unequivocally that trans women are victims of such a high degree of assault, only makes me want to speak out more forcefully.
The same things that reduce trans women to less than work against me. To say that this is not my problem means that I would be blind to the ways in which the isms interact. Racism, Sexism, and Transphobia all have the same parent.
Beyond the connections which to me are obvious, there is also the issue of valuing humanity. Bodies are rated differently in this society, but this is the result of social construction. There is nothing about a trans man or woman that makes them inherently any different than a cisgendered person. Any difference that we see is what we have created to benefit ourselves.
What difference does it make what someone else's genitals look like? You are not sleeping with them, and they are not taking your body to do their business. Why is it so damn hard to look at someone and see a human heart beating?
When I hear the terms like trannie, he/she, or it directed at trans people, I know that these are hate words. I know that they hurt, and that they have real world consequences. These terms exist to dehumanize the trangender community. They perpetuate ignorance and hatred. The fact that they remain in common usage allows murderers to use the trans panic defence.
When I think about it the usage is so common, that the media does not even bother with code terms the way they do for the black community, or the gay community. When was the last time you heard a newscaster say faggot or nigger, but yet they have no problem saying transvestite or referring to a trans person by their pre transition name. In fact they often go out of their way to insinuate that the victim was at fault for "play acting". Each time these hateful words are said, they reify difference where there is none, and justify the bloodshed of innocent people who are just trying to live their lives.
If you cannot find commonality with the trans community based in race, then find it in our shared humanity. When you belittle their experience you are reducing us all. No one, no matter who they are should live a life where they fear violence. No one should lead a life in which they are daily marginalized just for being who they were born. Fuck, I know I keep saying it, but all bodies matter. Every single one of us is precious with untold gifts to bestow upon this beautiful blue planet. We will never know peace as a species until we learn that one essential fact.
The next time you hear someone tell a trannie joke, or act like their words have no meaning, remind them that words are how we order and understand our world. If the words that we use as descriptors create someone as less than, then we are devaluing the life of another.