So many other, higher profile, writers will address this topic today that I hesitate to even address it here. But I think there are at least a few of you out there who read this blog who have no other exposure to what's going on in the transgender community and are likely completely unaware of what occurs today. You need to know.
All over the world today, and in many locations in North America, transgender people and those who love them will gather in reverent ceremonies to remember our trans brothers and sisters who have lost their lives or their health to attacks and assaults because of their transgender status. Hundreds of human being who were on the receiving end of violence because they didn't fit into the "norms" that our culture has defined for us. Sadly, far too often these attackers justify their violence with the cover of a professed (but not lived) religious motivation.
It is regrettable that when secific examples are cited, too often it gives the impression that these are rare and isolated incidents which can be explained away by some other reasoning. Perhaps the victim was involved in prostitution and this justifies a "gay panic" defense, perhaps the attacker was mentally disturbed and thus not representative of anything - the person who wants to see an excuse can find one. So I will not list for you example of real people who are no longer among us because they died for being transgender. But the reality is that the ONE thing the victims have in common is that they were people that society defined as "abnormal." This, for some, makes them targets.
"What," you might ask, "does this have to do with me? I'm not violent, I don't attack people I disapprove of - why should I care?"
Because you, and I, and everyone around us contribute to that societal definition of "normal." Our culture, our society, is made up of the collective views and attitudes of every member of the whole. Why is it considered inappropriate to, for instance, go naked in public? Because all of us collectively have a consensus that it is so - even if the nudist disagrees. It is right and proper that this should happen because there are certainly some things that SHOULD be considered unacceptable, if not abhorrent (child molesting, for instance, or animal cruelty).
The problem arises when we ill-consider WHY we file a behavior as unacceptable. Too often we accept an "everybody knows" bit of circular reasoning to confirm our own bias. Too seldom we give rational thought to WHY we have that bias.
Even more disturbing is how often our biases are unthinkingly transferred to others - and that is for these reasons I write this tonight.
It is my prayer that every person of good will stop and really reason out why they feel as they do about transgender people. What do you actually know about the condition? Who told you? What source of information infomred your views or do you just "go along" with what "everybody knows"? No one can reach or speak to the hateful, and I have nothing to say to hateful people. But if your heart is in the right place, examine it - and seek out the knowledge you might lack, whether it's about the condition itself, or about the Scriptures of your religion (don't just assume what you've been taught is what it actually says).
Beyond that, and of greatest importance - watch your words. Whenever you see a transgender person, on the street or on television or wherever, how do you react? Do you recoil and say "that's sick!"? Do you laugh and mock? Do you condemn and judge? Most of all, do you pay attention to who might hear your words? Do you realize that your reaction helps form that cultural consensus that leads to either love or hatred? When you laugh, you make it just a little easier for others to scorn; when you scorn, you make it just a little easier for others to be angered; when you are angry, you make it just a little easier for others to feel justified in their violence.
And when you love, and show kindness - you make it just a little easier for the intolerant to reconsider their bias, just a little easier for the anger and judgment to cool.
If you are one of those who hears that a trans person has been mocked and scorned and thinks "Good enough for them" then I'm not speaking to you - may God forgive you for your lack of love for your fellow human soul. But for the rest of you, know that your reaction - for good or ill - helps create the world in which people like me have to live. Or die. Of far more importance than the candles being lit tonight in various places around the world, is the light of understanding and love that can, if you will let it, shine in your own life.
Because, though it is cliched it is nonetheless true, the next transgender person you meet might be your own child, or sibling, or spouse, or parent. What sort of world do you want them to live in? What will your loved one think of themselves if they know, from your previous words, that those people who profess to love them would reject them if they knew?
The Bible says that your words speak from the abundance of your heart. Whether you are a Christian or not, that much is surely something we'd all agree on. Your words can, in an accumulation of many small contributions, help save lives - or help take them.