by Heather Cassandra Blessing, LMFT
November 20, 2018
Transgender Day of Remembrance
“The Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR), also known as the International Transgender Day of Remembrance, is observed annually on November 20 as a day to memorialize those who have been murdered as a result of transphobia and to draw attention to the continued violence endured by the transgender community.
Transgender Day of Remembrance was founded in 1999 by Gwendolyn Ann Smith, a transgender woman, to memorialize the murder of transgender woman Rita Hester in Allston, Massachusetts. Since its inception, TDoR has been held annually on November 20, and it has slowly evolved from the web-based project started by Smith into an international day of action. In 2010, TDoR was observed in over 185 cities throughout more than 20 countries.
Typically, a TDoR memorial includes a reading of the names of those who lost their lives during the previous year, and may include other actions, such as candlelight vigils, art shows, food drives, film screenings, and marches.”
On October 21st, the New York Times reported that The Department of Health and Human Services is trying to establish a legal definition of sex under Title IX, which is the federal civil rights law that bans gender discrimination in education that receives federal funding. “Sex means a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth,” the department proposed in the memo, which was drafted and has been circulating since last spring. “The sex listed on a person’s birth certificate, as originally issued, shall constitute definitive proof of a person’s sex unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence.”
With high rates of suicide, murder and violence affecting the transgender community, this is a huge step backwards. My transgender clients are scared, more scared than they have ever been. If this definition becomes a reality, it most likely will start being used across everything federal. What makes no sense is there is no reliable genetic evidence that states someone is either female or male. You can be male because you were born female, but you have 5-alphareductase deficiency and so you grew a penis at age 12. You can be female because you have an X and a Y chromosome but you are insensitive to androgens, and so you have a female body. You can be female because you have an X and a Y chromosome but your Y is missing the SRY gene, and so you have a female body. You can be male because you have two X chromosomes, but one of your X’s HAS an SRY gene, and so you have a male body. You can be male because you have two X chromosomes- but also a Y. You can be female because you have only one X chromosome at all.
But science really isn’t what makes us ourselves is it? We are a combination of genetics, environment, personality, diseases, conditions, body chemistry, trauma, development, interactions, and so much we still don’t understand. My birth certificate says I was assigned female at birth. When I was a teenager and had high testosterone, an adam’s apple, my voice dropped and I grew facial hair (basically going through male puberty after my female puberty and then my menses stopped), I was tested for several intersexed conditions that might have caused it. It turned out I have PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) which is not an intersexed condition.
What if I was tested and found my chromosomes are not XX? Would that change my designation based on this memo? I like to consider myself a tomboy who likes to wear dresses. I am usually attracted to women, love cars, computers and what our culture has deemed as “masculine” traits. I am outside the “gender norm” of our culture and society. Based on the memo, I could not be discriminated against under Title IX because I am female in my appearance and on my birth certificate, but what if I let my natural body do its own thing and liked to wear pants and more masculine fashion. I would naturally have a beard and a moustache and look like a man with breasts.
Now what if I was discriminated against? would that be allowed? Technically I still claim to be a woman and that is what my birth certificate reads but how would people react? Would I really be protected? I have had many people assume I am a transgender woman. I have had people tell me I cannot use a female bathroom because I look like a man in a dress.
My husband looks like “Larry the Cable Guy”. No one would ever know that his original birth certificate states he was assigned female at birth. Based on his medical history he believes he has XX Chromosomes. But yet under the potential Title IX he would not be able to fight back against any discrimination. This doesn’t make sense to me. Why does it matter? What is the difference? Can we really define who it is acceptable to discriminate against?
I urge each and every one of you, take a moment and think of what if something you struggle with was in a memo that basically said, who you are or something about you, is ok to be discriminated against. It used to be ok to discriminate against women in education and the workplace. It used to be ok to discriminate against men on social security death benefits (did you know that it used to be only something wives got, not husbands?).
24 transgender people have been murdered in the United States since the last Transgender Day of Remembrance – their names appear at the bottom of this post.
This year along with remembering those who have been murdered and those who have lost their lives to suicide, many will worry that next year they may instead be remembering their legal identity that will no longer exist. Already many transgender people are unable to vote due to not being able to get a driver’s license since their birth certificate does not match a name change document. In some states unless you can afford major surgery that often is not covered by insurance, you can not change the sex assignment on your birth certificate and in 5 states there is no legal way to change the sex assigned at birth on the birth certificate.
So on Transgender Day of Remembrance, don’t just remember those who have died, but remember how hard they have fought to have just some of the same rights as everyone else, and how much they may continue to lose.
Brooklyn BreYanna Stevenson
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Shot to death
Zakaria “Z” Fry
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Blunt force trauma
Christa Leigh Steele-Knudslien
North Adams, Massachusetts 6-Jan-18
Stabbed and bludgeoned
Los Angeles, California
Buffalo, New York
Amia Tyrae Berryman
Baton Rogue, Louisiana
Shot to death
Shot to death
Carla Patricia Flores-Pavon,
Strangled to death
Shot multiple times
Antash’a Devine Sherrington English
Cathalina Christina James
Shot to death
Keisha “Pokey” Wells
Shot and killed
Shot to death
Port Charlotte, Florida
Ciara Minaj Carter Frazier
Shot to death
Heather Blessing, LMFT has been working with the LGBTQ community for more than 20 years. In 2006 she met and eventually married her husband who is transgender. When she became licensed in 2015 she started working with transgender children, which has become her specialty. She does trainings and workshops to help others understand what transgender means and how to be supportive. For for information or to contact her go to www.authenticlifepath.com