November 20 marks our nation's annual Transgender Day of Remembrance. To date, 22 transgender individuals have been murdered in the United States this year. Almost all have been young transgender women of color.
Since the 2016 election, violence against the transgender population has been on the increase. When the Justice Department of the United States of America instructs its employees to stop enforcing existing regulations protecting the rights of transgender workers, you know we have a problem. When the president himself irresponsibly suggests that the United States should only recognize the gender listed on one's birth certificate, we have a problem. And when that cavalier attitude causes irresponsible rhetoric to turn into violence, we have more than a problem. We have a travesty.
I am a transgender woman of privilege, with opportunities for employment, influence and friendship. I have a supportive family. I have been able to travel freely with very little concern for my safety beyond that experienced by any female. But with the escalating rhetoric against transgender people, I am more frightened than at any time since I transitioned. I can only imagine how difficult it is for transgender women and men of color.
The problem goes deeper than the violence done to the transgender community by outsiders. The atmosphere created by the religious right and the current administration has wounded transgender people deep within their own souls. Did you know that the most common reason for post transition suicidal ideation is the internalization of transphobia?
We are not immune to the messages of our culture, casting us as a population that should be legislated out of existence. We know rhetoric is not empty. As we've seen with the bombers and shooters who have recently targeted politicians on the left and sexual and racial minorities, words incite violence.
Those words also burrow deep within our own psyches. When the president of the United States wants to legislate us out of existence, no wonder so many transgender people internalize those words in ways that can be dangerous to our own wellbeing.
Last week I learned from a tribe member that the Ojibwa people have seven gender identifiers. Many other Native American tribes have five. All of them celebrate and revere those they call "Two Spirit" people. I find it fascinating that those who never heard the story of Jesus are more like Jesus than the Christians who have sold their souls for political power.
During this week of remembrance, we at Left Hand pray for the 22 who have lost their lives in 2018, and we pray that all Americans, and especially evangelical and fundamentalist Christians, will learn to follow our better angels and stop the violence against all transgender people.