Where There is No Mercy; The Transgender Plight

By: Karla Fetrow

She was soft.  She was fun-loving.  She was beautiful, so beautiful she passed easily for a girl.  She was also terribly alone.  She didn’t feel gay; not in the sense that she was comfortable with looking like a man, pursuing another male relationship.  Nature had made a mistake.  She had been placed in the wrong body, and because she had, neither family, classmates, nor even patrons of the local gay bar accepted him.  She was a freak, an outcast, and for Luna, there would be no mercy.

She was going for a stroll outside her apartment on a shivery March day, when she was grabbed from behind and beaten.  Luna never saw her attacker.  She was knocked unconscious, yet even that did not stop the rain of blows that continuously pummeled her body.  She was beaten to death.  How much hate, how much fury, how much intensity does it take to use your fists and beat a young, healthy body to death?  When there was nothing left but a mass of broken flesh and bones, Luna was thrown in a garbage can.  Her killer was never found.

All Duana wanted was to rise up out of her intense poverty.  With no family, no friends, no supportive network, she began working as a prostitute to support herself.  One day the police arrested her.  While at the police station, she was held down and beaten, while the onlookers cheered on and called her a faggot and a he-she.  Fortunately for Duana, it was all caught on videotape.  The news of her beating was leaked to the press.  For awhile, she was the center of attention.  For awhile, everyone wanted to know just how badly transgenders had it, and Duana was quite happy to let them know.  As happens with all sensations of the moment, the news finally died down and Duana was forgotten.  She went back to her apartment that had no electricity or running water; back to the only friend she had in the entire world; an elderly woman who was forbidden to see her anymore when her husband found out she was transgender.  One night, she was doing nothing in particular when two men walked up and shot her.  They left her to bleed to death of her gun wounds.  She had been hoping to win a million dollar lawsuit against the police, but she no longer had a way of pursuing the case.  The police claimed there were no leads, and nobody was held responsible for her death.

This is the roll call of the transgender deaths; little blurbs on a page, asking that they not be forgotten.  The list is long, and in each case, it was a brutal and violent hate crime, yet there aren’t any true numbers, no statistics to give, because only a few of the deaths were acknowledged as crimes of hate.  Most have just been classified as one more unsolved murder.

Transgender people often know from childhood that they are different.  The boy craves the pastimes generally associated with being a girl, and the girl craves the activities normally pursued by boys.  It’s more than a general interest in cross-sexual tastes.  This is where they feel they belong; in a world that is denied to them because of their sex.

The parents of transgender children are not always pleased with them.  Some reject their offspring completely, handing them over to foster care or booting them out of the house as soon as they are able to stand on their own. In school, they aren’t just taunted by their classmates.  They aren’t just bullied.  A quarter of all transgender children have been physically assaulted, eight percent have sexually assaulted, and six percent were expelled due to their sexual orientation.  Most shocking of all, in sixty percent of youthful transgender abuse, the teachers  took part in this brutal bullying and harassment.

The world that is denied to them only recognizes their gender, not their sexual orientation. Bobbi looked just like a boy.  When he was admitted to the Woman’s Correctional Institute, heads turned and stared.  Slim, flat chested, with short, shaggy hair and Peter Pan features, he made a very attractive looking boy, and it wasn’t long before the larger, more aggressive women were pushing their way through to become Bobbi’s “girlfriend”.  Bobbi really didn’t want the attention.  He didn’t want the stares, the murmurs and giggles behind hands, the patronizing arms thrown around his shoulders, or the rivalry.  He didn’t want a harem.  He didn’t want the jeers from the guards or the extra work detail given him for being transgender.  He had been placed in prison for assault on an officer, but at one hundred ten pounds, one has to wonder who had done the real assaulting.

The world routinely denies them employment or discriminates against them in the work place.  It has also denied them medical attention.  One quarter of all transgender persons seeking medical attention have been refused it   Not only have they been turned away, but occasionally they can expect assault by this noble office that has sworn to uphold the terms of human dignity and compassionate care.

Is it any wonder that forty-one percent of transgender persons have tried at least once to commit suicide?  In recent years, the gay and lesbian community have recognized the problems facing the transgender person, but this wasn’t always so.  In the past, they were often ridiculed and teased for “pretending” to be the opposite sex.  At best, they were patronized or tolerated, but with little empathy for the transgender person’s emotional state.  The transgender person was truly alone.

In recent years, more families have learned to love and embrace their transgender members.  How could one forget the image of a brother who held his transgender sibling close to his chest, racked with heart-breaking sobs because someone thought it was okay to drive by and riddle a transgender person full of bullets; a someone who has never been apprehended and brought to trial for a hate crime?  How can one ignore the anguish of the family of a transgender person who had been supportive of the life their child had found; a life complete with a job, a home and a boyfriend?  That life was not to be fulfilled.  He was stabbed to death one day and his body dragged into the nearby woods.

A mistake has been made, but the mistake is not in the transgender’s search for identity.  It’s in the lack of acceptance as to who they are and their rights to be treated with the same respect as any other human being. For many years, psychiatrists argued that transgender identity was caused by trauma, and the condition was classified as a psychological disorder, but attempts to correct transgender preferences with early childhood treatment have failed.  Transgender preference is not the result of childhood upbringing.  The evidence points to physical causes.  Current scientific studies link numerous biological occurrences to transgender persuasion, including genetics, brain structure, brain function and prenatal androgen exposure.

It is a terrible thing to hate without rationale, with only the uncontrollable rage of seeing someone who is different, someone who doesn’t quite fit in with the group, someone who is such a minority, that one lonely voice couldn’t possibly make a difference.  That lonely voice is a dividing line of true humanity.  It’s a voice that asks only for acceptance because that person loves and cries, hopes and dreams as much as any other person.  That person wants all the same comforts, has all the same ambitions, all the same needs as any other human being.  That person just happens to be in the wrong body.

About karlsie

Some great perversity of nature decided to give me a tune completely out of keeping with the general symphony; possibly from the moment of conception. I learned to read and speak almost simultaneously. The blurred and muffled world I heard through my first five years of random nerve loss deafness suddenly came alive with the clarity of how those words sounded on paper. I had been liberated for communications. I decided there was nothing more wonderful than writing. It was easier to write than carefully modulate my speech for correct pronunciation, and it was easier to read than patiently follow the movements of people’s lips to learn what they were saying. It was during that dawning time period, while I slowly made the connection that there weren’t that many other people who heard the way I did, halfway between sound and music, half in deafness, that I began to understand that the tune I was following wasn’t quite the same as that of my classmates. I was just a little different. General education taught me not only was I just a little isolated from my classmates, my home was just a little isolated from the outside world. I was born in Alaska, making me part of one of the smallest, quietest minorities on earth. I decided I could live with this. What I couldn’t live with was discovering a few years later, in the opening up of the pipeline, which coincided with my first year of junior college, that there were entire communities of people; more than I could possibly imagine; living impossibly one on top of another in vast cities. It wasn’t even the magnitude of this vision that inspired me so much as the visitors who came from these populous regions and seemed to possess a knowledge so great and secretive I could never learn it in any book. I became at once, very conscious of how rural I was and how little I knew beyond the scope of my environment. I decided it was time to travel. The rest is history; or at least, the content of my stories. I traveled... often to college campuses, dropping in and out of school until one fine day by chance I’d fashioned a bachelor of arts degree in psychology. I’ve worked a couple of newspapers, had a few poems and stories tossed around in various small presses, never receiving a great deal of money, which I’m assured is the norm for a writer. I spent ten years in Mexico, watching the peso crash. There is some obscure reason why I did this, tightening up my belt and facing hunger, but I believe at the time I said it was for love. Here I am, back home, in my beloved Alaska. I’ve learned somewhat of a worldly viewpoint; at least I like to flatter myself that way. I’ve also learned my rural roots aren’t so bad after all. I work in a small, country store. Every day I greet the same group of local customers, but make no mistake. My store isn’t a scene out of Andy Griffith. The people who enter the establishment, which also includes showers, laundry and movie rentals, are miners, oil workers, truck drivers, construction engineers, dog sled racers and carpenters. Sometimes, on the liquor side, the conversations became adult only in vocabulary. It’s a good thing, on the opposite side of the store is a candy aisle filled with the most astonishing collection, it will keep a kid occupied with just wishing for hours. If you tell your kids they can have just one, you have an instant baby sitter; better than television; as they agonize over their choice while you catch up on the gossip with your neighbor. We also receive a lot of tourists, a lot of foreign visitors. They are usually amazed at this first sign of Alaskan rural life style beyond the insulating hub of the Anchorage bowl. Many of them like to hang around and chat. They gawk at our thieves wanted posters. They laugh at our jokes and camaraderie with our customers. I’ve learned another lesson while working there. You don’t have to go out and find the world. If you wait long enough, it comes to you.

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11 Comments on “Where There is No Mercy; The Transgender Plight”

  1. [Quote=Article] One night, doing nothing in particular when two men walked up and shot him. They left him to bleed to death of his gun wounds. He had been hoping to win a million dollar lawsuit against the police, but he no longer had a way of pursuing the case. The police claimed there were no leads, and nobody was held responsible for his death.[/quote]

    Something tells me this was no coincidence – people who openly deny the “law” enforcement establishment have a tendency to wind up imprisoned or dead…

  2. These are NOT uncommon occurrences. MOST of the transfolk that I grew up with are DEAD. The few who remain have similar experiences.

    I myself was beaten starting in elementary school (as much for my parents religion as just being different). My hands, feet, ribs and nose were broken countless times, once skull was smashed and woke up a week later in ICU on life support screaming in pain. Have been shot at, stabbed and burned. Not one limb on my body is free of scars. NOT ONE. Yet the hate continues and children today are still being beaten, bullyed, and worse.

    Why?
    Because religion tells myths and fairy tales in an effort to control people and make them CONFORM to specific criteria. Religion is about power and control and nothing else. That is the real enemy. That is the root of the hate.

  3. Hello thank you fir your heartfelt article. I as a postop woman with a trans history appreciate every article thatcraises awareness of the plight many in our community suffer. Thank God I myself have been blessed with a very positive transition and post transition experience. I have only had some minor pushback from some family and a couple friends. But the rest of my life has been amazing. In saying that though I recognize there nut for the grace of God go I, and that any second all that could change with some irrational hatefilled ignorant person out there. It is why I am an activist, fighting for our community. Yes I pass well. Yes I could live stealth. But I feel I owe it to those who fought before me to get us to where we are. To at it forward. To fight for voices that may not be able to be heard.

    One comment about the article. I suggest you review it for mispronouning people. If a person born male lives and presents as female you should identify that person with pronouns consistent with their day to day presentation regardless of what physical attributes they had at the time of death. Unless you know they continued to insist on pronouns consistent with their birth physical attributes. Thank you.

  4. Every time you call a transwoman “he” or refer to her as “him”, it is just one more blow in the assault.

  5. No offense, but there are many trans folk who are able to live their lives w/out all of the woe, the drama, the turmoil that unfortunately some face. For once it would be refreshing to read about those of us who have been determined and fortunate to navigate our way thru things sucessfully.

    Just a thought.

  6. Azazel, the thought also came to my mind when i was studying the case histories. It appalls me that the police feel justified in arresting people for piddling things, yet commit or ignore atrocities among themselves.

  7. Veronica, religion is often used as a tool to promote hate and distrust, when it should be used as a process of enlightenment and acceptance, which is why i am leery of most religious denominations. There are exceptions, and i take heart because of this, because these exceptions are all that will shine a light in this era of dark ignorance.

    Michelle and Robyn, i apologize. I wondered at the time i wrote the article if i should use gender preference in pronoun referencing, but i was afraid it would be confusing to the general public. I will go back and edit and consider the public informed.

  8. I was lucky, even growing up in an Ohio village of 3,000. People usually minded their own business, and even though I did get bullied all through school because I wasn’t a drunken, drug-addled idiot like many of my male classmates, I stayed above the fray and never let them see me cry.

    I live in a larger town now where if the police *had* beaten someone up like Duana, they’d be fired on the spot rather than be coddled!

    It all just depends on where you live and your economic status. I may be poor, but I live in a nice apartment, I receive Section 8 and food assistance and have been battling the bureaucracy for years to get on SSI due to the depression I suffer from every day.

    The attitude I take is that you *never* let the bastards win! Fight like hell for your rights. Fight like hell to get the fuck out of the big cities where crime is so rampant and the cops don’t give a crap.

    Be visible and stop hiding in the shadows, constantly being afraid of what other people think! Be true to yourself and wear that trans status with *pride*!

    Be active in other groups — find a political party to work with to show them we exist and that we *demand* equal rights, too! If your city has a LGBT Pride Center, volunteer there to help the next generation not make the mistakes you did.

    Remember… no one makes you feel inferior unless you let them.

  9. Some of us have done quite well and have managed to survive and thrive in spite of it all, I did by not talking about it, yet I am not without my troubles from the past. while I was not bullied in school my own mother tried to have me institutionalized on two (2) separate occasions.

  10. We need to fight back, “lock and load” if necessary.

    I’ve been lucky in that I have a wonderful boyfriend, a supportive family (his and mine), and many wonderful friends.

    My only negative thing is that I had my daughter taken away from me by my so-called “christian” ex, and simply because I am a transgender female.

    My (once again a so-called “christian”) mom gave me grief at first until I pointed her to this lady’s website
    http://www.teach-ministries.org

  11. @RJ: Mostly because I did not know I was trans until I was 43 years of age, I was able to escape much of what happens to younger transgender people. However I had been approached a few times by gay men who thought I was a gay male when nothing could have been further from the truth. I was just a small framed male. When I finally understood what had been bother me all my life I was able to begin the transition at shortly after my mother passed away in 1995. Plus I had “been raised” as a musician. Now I can say I am a published photographer, professional composer of concert (classical) music (just had a concert of six of my works in August 2012), and published writer, I still get called “sir” a lot due to my deep voice, but my joke is that all that testosterone went to my vocal cords and nowhere else!

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