This year we’ve broken a record, and it’s not a good one. More transgender women have been killed in the U.S. than in any other year on record. I’m heartbroken and angered that women keep dying, most of them women of color, most of them Black. Most were between the ages of 17-25, just coming into adulthood, when their lives, dreams and futures were stolen. They were sisters, daughters, granddaughters, aunties and more. I cannot even imagine the devastation I would feel if this happened to my own child.
I am frustrated by the lack of public outcry in response to these murders and compelled to use my voice the best way I know how. I am crying out as a mother to other families. I am crying out because I want trans women of color to know that the deaths in their community do not go unnoticed. I am crying out because I want to be part of a world where their lives matter to all of us. I want people to celebrate the lives of trans girls and women of color and recognize that they make our world better. Families can play a pivotal role in making this happen.
Trans women’s lives concern all families.
We may or may not have a daughter, sister or other family member who is transgender. But, if we think of trans lives as “somebody else’s issue” we are missing the boat. Consider these questions:
Do you want children to grow up feeling that they can be themselves without being bullied or harassed?
Do you want children to grow up and realize their potential without being forced to change who they are?
Do you want children to grow up respecting the dignity of every human being?
Do you want your family to learn from examples of women who have faced adversity and risen to leadership roles working for social justice?
If your response to even one of these questions is affirmative, the lives of trans women of color matter to you and your family.
Family values are being hijacked to attack transgender women.
Many families are afraid that transgender rights will harm their children. Some are aligning themselves with right wing conservative and Christian fundamentalists to attack the rights of transgender children and adults. These groups claim to represent families and family values. Here are a few examples:
- Conservative think tank, the Family Research Council, opposes bills to protect the rights of transgender people on the grounds that they threaten religious liberty.
- The organization that calls itself One Million Moms, a project of the American Family Association, is mobilizing mothers against TV shows about transgender children, youth and parents. They say they’re against shows that “normalize the transgender lifestyle,” and want their children to live in a moral society.
- Parents and students in schools across the country have rallied vehemently against policies to protect transgender students. At stake are transgender students’ rights to use bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their gender identities, and teaching respect for gender diversity in the classroom.
These families may think they are protecting children, but they are actually harming them. They do not speak for my family or for any family that truly respects and values diversity. Families don’t all look the same. We include single parent families, chosen families, interracial families, families with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender parents and children and more. We need family voices and family values that represent and honor this diversity. More and more families of transgender children and parents are speaking out. As they do, our families need to support them, not attack their rights.
We, as families, can make a difference.
Ending the violence isn’t just about stopping violent individuals. It’s about changing the ideology of hate into one of love, checking the ways we participate in the marginalization of trans people, and creating supportive families, communities and institutions. Here are some things any family can do:
- Learn from transgender women of color and families with transgender children. Attend events, watch videos and TV shows, read books or get involved in the community.
- Learn about gender and the gender binary. Be willing to question your own beliefs about gender. Understand that the bodies we are born with don’t always determine how we identify. Read books to your children about transgender and gender non-conforming children and youth.
- Create a safe home environment where gender, racial and other forms of diversity are valued and talked about openly. Allow children to explore who they are without forcing them to dress, play and act according to gender roles and expectations. Be aware of negative stereotypes and messages about gender, race and other differences.
- Support efforts to build safe, inclusive schools. Advocate for inclusive curriculum that values people of all races and genders. Support school environments that are free from bullying and harassment, and safety to use the bathroom in peace.
- Learn and practice non-violent communication in the home. Help children learn skills to communicate well with others. Help them feel powerful without overpowering others or using violence. Avoid teaching boys to use violence to prove their masculinity.
- Interrupt disrespectful name-calling, jokes and commentaries in your home, school and community.
- Advocate for respect for transgender people in your church, temple or religious community.
I wrote this post to spark conversation and inspire families to action. What actions have you taken in your family? What ideas do you have?
Voices of trans women of color:
Ruby Corado, Laverne Cox, Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, Lourdes Ashley Hunter, Marsha P. Johnson, Andy Marra, Janet Mock, Isa Noyola, Silvia Rivera, Bamby Salcedo, Hina Wong-Kalu(Kumu Hina)
Safe homes, schools and churches:
4 Ways to Honor your Child’s Gender Autonomy
Beyond the Binary: Gender Identity Activism in Your School
How Gender Boxes Harm all Children and What We Can Do about it
Schools in Transition: A Guide for Supporting Transgender Students in K-12 Schools
Supporting and Caring for our Gender Expansive Youth
The Top 10 Ways to Welcome Transgender People to Church
See my Proud Mom videos.
Schedule a Workshop or Presentation.