I’m furious right now.
An old friend died this week. I’m mad as hell with him for doing it, even though I know he’d have some choice words for me around the topic of minding my own damn business. I guess that’s something everyone feels when something like this happens. It’s easier to be angry.
While I don’t know why he did what he did, I know this: LGBTI people in Ireland are three times more likely to attempt suicide than our cishet counterparts. The further you go along that acronym, the higher our risk of elevated stress, anxiety and depression. Trans, bi and intersex people are most severely hit. I know that we’re only human. A lifetime of microaggressions and macro oppressions leaves you raw. Wears you down. When life’s ordinary difficulties come your way, you’re that little bit less resilient. More exposed. More vulnerable. I’m furious that, knowing this, we seem to accept bigotry as just how some people are. I’m tired of tolerance. That measly little word puts our selves and loves on a par with someone else’s ‘right’ to proclaim us disordered.
I know this: we punish men when they are vulnerable. Insinuate that a real man could just power through, or wouldn’t feel that way in the first place. We teach each other that support, closeness and intimacy are weak. Feminine. Lesser. I know that when we do this, we put men in a double bind: to be respected, you shove those parts of you down. If you choose not to, there’s an ocean of internal and external shame to deal with. I don’t know if I could handle that. I’m not surprised that so many men can’t.
Do we even care?
I’m furious that in the face of hundreds of people ending their lives every year, our government wants to drain millions of euro from our mental health budget. Do those hundreds of lives simply not matter? What about the tens or hundreds of thousands of people who won’t kill themselves but who still need those services?
I’m angry that my friend’s death can’t simply be a private tragedy. I wish I could think about his loss to our community without being overwhelmed by how many others are going through something similar. I wish that him being a man, queer and trans didn’t slot his death right into one of the biggest suicide clichés of them all.
And I’m scared. Back in 2013 I knew how lucky I was that my friends and loved ones had survived another year. I’ve always known that, and a part of me always waits for the shoe to drop. For the phone to ring. I’ve had one of those phone calls this year. I can’t stop thinking: who will be next?
A year ago, the derby world was shattered by news that one of our youngest members- a 15 year old boy called Sam- had died through suicide. I wrote this:
Sam didn’t die because he was trans. Transness is a perfectly ordinary variation of what it is to be human, and there is nothing intrinsic about being trans that could make life not worth living.
Sam died because we failed him. He died because we accepted a world where trans kids- kids, people at the start of their lives who haven’t had a chance to develop the context to see how things can change and who don’t have the option to get the hell out of where they are- are forced to live in worlds and with people who tell them every day of their lives that they are worthless. He died because we didn’t shout loud enough, didn’t insinuate our voices into every single crack, didn’t object every single time, didn’t counter enough of that kind of hate and torture of kids with nowhere else to go and by not doing that we let it continue. We let people hound another trans kid to death.
Are you tired of this yet? Because I am. I’m sick and tired of seeing yet another headline for yet another person killed or tortured into killing themselves because of who they are. Yet another teenager.
And here’s something I said way back in November 2013 on the Trans Day of Remembrance:
Today, though, I do feel luckier than most. I wish that it didn’t have to be that way. Today is the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, you see, when we take time to mourn and recognise all of the trans* people who should be here with us today, but who have been killed by transphobia in the past year. Everyone who was murdered because of how their gender was perceived. Everyone who was driven to suicide by this transphobic, ciscentric society that we live in. Every year we do this, and every year I want to hold the trans people who I love just that little bit closer. Because we’ve all survived another year. Those I love have been spared.
Isn’t that selfish? I guess that we’re all a little bit selfish. We all love who we love, and though we care for those outside that little group, it’s the loss of our family, friends and lovers that tears at our guts and rips our lives apart. So every year on November 20th I feel a little bit lucky. The people I love are still here.
It’s a cruel kind of luck, and one that nobody should have to feel.
Like most of us, I’ve said goodbye to people I love over the years. They’ve died in different circumstances. Some after long years of illness. Some after short months or weeks. Some expected, some unexpected. Some peacefully, some in pain. The loss of every single one of them tore- and tears- my heart apart. But there’s one thing that is common to every one of them that I will always take comfort from. Every one of them died knowing that they were dearly loved. Everything that we could do to ease their suffering was done. They didn’t want for a hand to hold. They were cherished as they died.
Nobody can tell how each of us will end our lives. But that one simple thing- that in our last moments we know that we are loved and cherished, and that if there is any way to ease our suffering it will be done- is something that we can hope for everyone we care for. It’s the one thing that we can do.
Too many of our trans community are denied that.
Too. Damn. Many.