Editor’s note: For TGNC citizens and allies alike, find out more about the issues facing the community this month at The 9th annual TransOhio Transgender and Ally Symposium, slated for April 28–30 at The Ohio State University Student Union. For more, visit transohio.org.
There is an aphorism, attributed to various sources, that says “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
Everyone is fighting a hard battle.
Some of us fight a battle against a splinter in our mind. That splinter is the knowledge that you are not who everyone assumes you are. You know who you are, but everyone is constantly telling you that you are wrong. Every day, and with every denial of your identity, the splinter grows larger and more painful.
Some of us decide to act in order to remove that splinter. Then perhaps you have to battle your own family, who might shun you or kick you out into the streets when you decide to live authentically. Fighting this battle could shred your intimate relationships. It could cost you your job. You could be evicted from your home or apartment—that’s all perfectly legal.
Some of us fight a battle against our own bodies. That battle is long, expensive, and often painful; but it’s also absolutely necessary. It’s the only way to align your body with your identity, to feel a measure of comfort in your own skin. Something that most people take for granted. This battle is fought upon on a field mined with inconsistent and incomplete insurance coverage, and often against providers who can be ignorant or even hostile.
Some of us fight a battle to be recognized as who we really are. To win this skirmish, you need money, endurance, and patience. If you can navigate all the obstacles in your path, your reward is a driver’s license (or passport or social security card) that affirms your lived experience and identity. Even then, people misgender you. They deadname you. Sometimes they just slip up. Other times, they wield words like switchblades and call you touchy (or worse) when you stand up for yourself.
Some of us fight a battle against misconceptions and ignorance. People think your identity means you are gay. (You might be, but that doesn’t have anything to do with your identity.) People think you are trying to “trick” them. People ask you astoundingly invasive and inappropriate questions. People somehow think you are dangerous, just by virtue of being yourself in the light of day.
Some of us fight a battle against isolation and loneliness. Friends and family either sever ties with brutal finality or fade away like images on an old sun-blasted photograph. It’s hard to find someone to date who doesn’t fetishize you or want you to be their dirty little secret. It’s still socially acceptable, even among queer folks, to casually dismiss the idea of being in a relationship with someone like you.
Some of us fight a battle against our own government, and against our own fellow citizens. Those misconceptions and that ignorance become weaponized. You’re portrayed as a predator simply for using the restroom. An entire religious movement and a major political party try to make your life more difficult and dangerous with missionary zeal. Their goal is to stab that splinter back into your mind. Their aim is to destroy you, or at least chase you back into the closet.
Some of us fight a battle for our very lives. It’s appallingly common for people like you to get assaulted, raped, and even murdered (especially if you’re a person of color). The responses of the authorities run from disinterested apathy to open antipathy. Even in death, you might get misgendered or deadnamed by the press or the police. Your family might bury you as someone you no longer are, or in many ways, as someone you never were.
Despite all of this, many of us fight on. Columbus has earned a reputation for being relatively friendly to trans and gender-nonconforming folks. It’s a beacon and a safe(r) harbor for those who want nothing more than to live authentically in peace. These are our stories. These are your friends, coworkers, and neighbors. We are always told, from early childhood, to be ourselves. Too often, when people choose to live their truth, the answer is, “No. Not like that.”
Forcing people to deform their bodies and souls in order to conform isn’t just morally wrong. It isn’t just callous and cruel. It’s also a tremendous waste of human potential. There are enough trans and gender nonconforming people in Ohio to fill BOTH Nationwide Arena and Mapfre Stadium. Imagine what they could accomplish if these were battles they no longer had to fight every day. Imagine if they could live without fear. Imagine if they enjoyed full personhood and citizenship. It could happen, but it can’t happen without you.
Read our stories. Join our battle. Be kind.
Ramona Peel is the Trans Patient Navigator and Lead Trainer for the Equitas Health Institute for LGBTQ Health Equity. She lives in Clintonville and is an out and proud trans woman. If you are a trans person in need of medical care, resources or advocacy, or if you are a member of an organization interested in LGBTQ Cultural Competence Training, email her at email@example.com.