By Guest Blogger Gretchen Rachel Hammond
Gretchen Rachel Hammond is a senior staff writer for the Chicago-based LGBTQ publication the Windy City Times and the 2015 recipient of the prestigious Lisagor Award. Hammond has also written novels like The Last Circle.
I know that somewhere in this country right now is an 11-year-old trying to figure out just who she/he/they are. If we share our stories loudly and proudly enough, maybe finding the answers will not involve so much running.
We have such a long-way to go as a community. We live in a world where Conservative Republicans would have us all permanently locked-up in straitjackets if they had their druthers. Where—according to two reports released by the Movement Advancement Project in 2015— one-in-five transgender people have been refused a home or an apartment with laws protecting them on the books in only 18 states and D.C. In schools, 40 percent of gender non-conforming youth have reported some level of harassment with only 13 states offering laws against discrimination because of their gender identity. An astonishing 78 percent of transgender individuals reported being "mistreated or discriminated against at work" while up to 47 percent noted being unfairly denied a job at all.
I’ve discovered this myself in applying to mainstream press organizations in the hopes of one day becoming a front line/war correspondent. When I was living stealth, my resume had a 90 percent response rate. Of course, once I walked into the interview I was the recipient of the “look” (as I came to call it) and never got a call back.
The reason I was mulling over the return to a stealth life is due to the two percent response rate I have received from the resume which shows I have been reporting on the LGBTQ community married with a google search which quickly reveals the fact that I am transgender.
In terms of income, National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS) figures state transgender Americans are "four times more likely to have a household income under $10,000 per year than the population as a whole."
Within the criminal justice system, MAP notes that one-in-six transgender people will have been incarcerated at some point in their lives. For Black transgender individuals that figure stands at 47 percent. "Reports from the Bureau of Justice Statistics find that 35 percent of transgender prisoners report experiencing sexual abuse in the last twelve months, compared to 4 percent of all prisoners," the document states while indicating that the disproportionate numbers of low-income transgender people has led to a far greater frequency of police interactions and "higher levels police harassment, imprisonment and violence."
We live in a world where transgender sisters and brothers are being systematically wiped away from this planet. Shockingly, my peers in the mainstream press have, whether out of laziness or sublime disregard for these lives cannot be bothered to simply go to GLAAD’s website to check on correct terminology.
Due diligence it seems does not matter when it comes to reporting on transgender people.
I have talked with local, state and national lawmakers who have bluntly informed me that transgender issues aren’t even on the bottom of a committee agenda somewhere.
We live in a world where some nationwide LGBTQ advocacy groups are only just now getting around to the transgender community, especially since their donors need a new post-marriage cause célèbre. I have seen transgender people call the rest of the LGB community out for keeping the ‘T’ silent.
They are not making an unsupported accusation.
At last year’s Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Chicago fundraiser, the word transgender was mentioned a sum-total of about four-times. This despite the CEO’s apology to the community just a few months earlier. The take-away from the HRC is the old adage that if you want something done properly, you have to do it yourself.
Luckily, many transgender people are. They are organizing, rallying and if even at a grassroots level, making their voices heard because something has to change.
Call me Pollyanna but we have to come together as a community. We must stop attacking each other—using words like privilege not to educate others but to highlight the differences between us and so divide us along racial lines instead of unifying us through a shared experience and need to make this world see us, to “embrace each other” in the words of Mama Gloria, as we fight to have our basic humanity acknowledged.
Another reason I was hesitant to tell my story—some trans person, somewhere will accuse me of living a ‘privileged’ life. It doesn’t matter that suffering racial, physical and sexual abuse in England and the permanent loss of a child and continuing job discrimination over here doesn’t feel particularly privileged to me.
The tears I shed growing up sting no less than they do now because I see a community with so many reasons to be proud of itself. Yet infighting has reduced it to disparate voices rather than a single voice declaring that pride and just as vociferously demanding our right to live.
I’m proud of each and every member of this community. If you were to stop to ask me about my life, I would answer: “I spent it on an often dangerous quest, across perilous oceans, in order to solve the conundrum that centered around who I was. But then, don’t we all?”
You are enough. You are brave and you are not alone. Embrace your differences and know you are far from wrong. You have never been more right.