Living in Fear, Living in Hope
I live in fear for my daughter’s life. It’s not something I think about every day, mind you, but often enough to make it a parent’s nagging, dreaded thought. This is not something that I ever expected to think about, but that is the reality of being the father of a transgender daughter. I read the headlines, and it seems as though I cannot get through the news some weeks without hearing of yet one more transgender person who has been killed. The count is up to twenty-one at this point in mid-October. And that is just in the United States.
When my then-30-year-old son shared with me that he was going to become my daughter, I had a very difficult time accepting that news. At the time, it had nothing to do with the danger that trans-women face each day. It had more to do with the thought—“You’re going to do WHAT?” After several months of reading, praying, studying, and actually meeting trans-women, I was able to put this in perspective and accept the decision my adult daughter had made.
Only later did the thought of her being in danger enter my mind. By this time, I had become active in TransCentral PA, a transgender support group in Harrisburg, PA. I met many trans-women who had to hide their gender identity at work, with their family, and in many situations that we “cis” people take for granted. [“Cis” is an abbreviation for cisgender, which identifies a person whose gender identity is the same as the gender with which they were born.] I was in awe of those trans-women who had to hide so much of themselves to so many others each day of their lives. And to think that many people believe that gender identity is some passing phase or lifestyle that they choose to live! Trust me, my friends, if anyone had a choice to live a certain way, very few would sign up for the life of a transgender person.
Joanne is one who has inspired me and made me hopeful for the trans-community. My wife and I had become friends with Joanne months before I knew her to be trans. We met through a leadership workshop on divorce. At a meeting of TransCentral PA, there was a guest speaker making a presentation on what the Bible has to say about transgender issues. The guest speaker was Joanne! Both she and I were surprised to see the other there, but we overcame our shock to deepen our friendship.
Joanne recently shared with me how many trans-women live daily in guarded thought for their safety. Joanne was travelling a few years back, when she needed to make a pit stop. As she exited her car, she noticed that the only vehicles in the parking lot were two tractor trailers. As she approached the lady’s room, she had to make sure the facility was vacant. As she returned to her car, she continually looked over her shoulder and around the car, to make sure that no one was lurking nearby. This exercise has become a constant routine for Joanne, and for many trans-women. They live in continual fear for their safety.
Getting home safely is not always the outcome for transgender people, be they male or female. There have been twenty-one murders of trans-people in the United States, thus far in 2015. They range in ages between 17 and 66 years old. Each November 20, memorial services are held across the country for the Transgender Day of Remembrance. It is unfortunate that so many are memorialized each year. Included in this year’s remembrance list will be Keisha Jenkins, of Philadelphia, and Zella Ziona, of Gaithersburg, MD, both shot and killed in the last couple weeks. We mourn their deaths, and lament the conditions under which they and all transgender people live each day.
Moving from “living in fear” to “living in hope,” I want to share with you some good things that are happening in the transgender world. While there is much heartache and difficulty for those who transition to the gender with which they innately identify, there is also much joy and deep-seated satisfaction when they can present themselves to the world as the one whom they truly feel they are. The Mastery Workshop is being offered at CAMP Rehoboth the weekend of October 23-25. This gathering of trans-people will provide safe space to build friendships and discover new resources for the trans-community. Delaware Renaissance is having a Renaissance of its own, as it grows in scope and geography across the state of Delaware. This group has its roots in Wilmington, and has expanded to Rehoboth Beach. More information may be found at delren.org.
These groups are tremendous resources for those who want to move from living in fear to living in hope. As the LGBT community considers its position in the greater Rehoboth area, we cannot overlook one initial for the sake of the others. We all need to live in hope!