Sunday, February 10, 2013

41%


Suicide is awful.

Sometimes we know when someone we love is hurting so badly that the only way they see out of their pain is to take their own life.

Sometimes we have no idea. They hide their pain so well. They wear a mask that has us all believing life is fine. We are surprised to hear their life is over…by their own hand.

I am transgendered. I was born female. I now move through the world as male. It’s a bit more complex than that,  those are the basics.

My community of transgender brothers and sisters is facing a suicide epidemic. I heard the results of a comprehensive survey of Trans people in the United States. 41% of Trans people have attempted to commit suicide. My first thought was:

41%, that seems low.

The general U.S. population has less than 2% report attempted suicide. That’s a staggering difference. 41% of my brothers and sisters have attempted to commit suicide and are still alive. We all know so many more attempted suicide and are dead.

4 out of 10. 41%. We talk about it within the community. I’m not the only one whose initial reaction is:

41%, that seems low.

Especially guys and women that are further into their transition. We have survived the process so far. We have lost brothers and sisters along the way. Too many. Way too many.

I volunteer in the Trans community. Transitioning is so difficult. I do what I can to help those in the thick of it, support those who have survived, and work to build community. We are an amazing community.

I belong to a lot of different communities. I have at different points throughout my life. I’ve never had to face the painful harsh reality that suicide is such a common thread in my community.

A handful of guys and women I’m close to are struggling with the depression and anxiety that is almost handed to a Trans person upon their realization they were born in the wrong body. Often as early as 3, 4, 5 years old.

If one guy doesn’t show up for a meeting or hasn’t posted on Facebook in a while my first thought is often:

I hope he’s alive and safe. Please let him be alive and safe.

When I played softball and someone didn’t show up it wasn’t panic inducing. He might have met a girl, fallen asleep in front of the TV, forgot we had a softball game. I’d never think he killed himself.

I’ve led many meetings where depression and anxiety and suicidal thoughts get discussed. I hope to make a safe place for my guys to talk about these thoughts and feelings. I’d rather have them talk then suffer and silence. We even talk about which inpatient psych units have the best overall treatment for Trans people. We all know which facilities will give you your own room. For me and my guys and my community this is our regular. This is part of our survival.

Every Trans person is on their own gender journey. We all figure out at different points in our lives that our gender isn’t right for us.

We all have a decision to make:
A.      Live in the wrong gender
B.      Find a way to transition, to change or modify our gender
C.      None of the above-Its all too much to handle

None of these options is easy. The stressors are huge.

If someone chooses not to transition. Decides that he or she can just live with what they got, they never get to be their true authentic self. That can take the pain of having the wrong body and magnify it so intensely. We lose many brothers and sisters who choose this path. They might just give up and die on the inside until there is nothing on the outside worth living for. It’s only a matter of time before my brothers and sisters end up on a bridge to jump the pain away.

Those of us that choose to transition get hit with a list of obstacles to overcome. They are not independent of one another. They can become very circular.

                Therapy, hormones, surgery, etc. are very expensive
                Getting a job pre-transition is difficult
                Transitioning on the job takes tremendous courage and strength
                Housing can be hard to secure
                Coming out to family and friends is a gamble-who will stay and who will go
                Personal safety is often questioned
                Looking in the mirror and seeing the wrong gendered face and body hurts every time
                All compounded by anxiety and depression topped off with the age old question:

    Which restroom do I use?

The list is different for everyone, these are some of the bigger ones. They can feed on each other. Cycle until the process appears impossible. Many of my brothers and sisters decide to transition, get overwhelmed, and end up with a gun in their mouth.

If it’s all too much to handle from the get go, well, you can guess how that ends

Life can be really difficult. Life for Trans people can be really really really really difficult.

By no means is it impossible to create a life worth living. We have a community of strong, courageous men and women that have survived transition. I don’t know of any other community as amazing as ours.

I often tell my friends that being Trans is a great blessing. Each one of us has to look deeply to find who we really are. We have to figure out what matters to us. We get to decide if we want to tap into our strength to become the most brilliant man or woman we can be.

Each and every one of us has survived to this point for a reason. If we were really quitters we would have given up long ago.

Some days the list looks impossible. I stared this over eleven years ago. I dove right in to my transition and embraced my community. I’m here now to tell you it was worth every ounce of courage, every drop of pain.

I used to tell people my transition wasn’t too bad, not big deal. The more time I spend with the guys just beginning to walk their path, the more I remember how difficult it was.

I guess the man I am today thinks the difficult process was worth enduring to be free to move as himself through the world.

The changes since I started over a decade ago are phenomenal. Legal changes, medical changes, community changes, health care changes. We’re out in the media. We’ve moved beyond Jerry Springer, Chaz is Dancing With the Stars. Our LGB family is offering stronger support. Churches are welcoming us. Some Trans kids are being treated by competent medical doctors. Even Molly Ringwald has a Trans character in her fiction novel. Our status as Freaks is slowly diminishing. We are more and more often seen simply as people.

We need community. We need each other. We need allies. We need families. We need help.

Suicide is so awful.

41% seems very low. We need to find ways to make it lower.