Do you remember what life was like before you heard the word “Transgender”? Do you remember the feelings of confusion… being told it’s just a phase, wondering when you would grow out of it so you could be like everyone else? What about finally resigning yourself to the idea that you’re just gay, even though that never really felt like who you are inside.
The ideas and opinions about trans people are changing as social and national media push for visibility and awareness. Children are now being educated at younger ages, and this is amazing, because it sets up a future generation of acceptance and understanding. All of these images are of the Genderbread Person Bulletin boards found in different schools and learning centers. It’s basic, but it’s a start. Cis awareness is leading to changes in education and greater acceptance, which is literally saving lives in the trans community. I’m not saying that everything is sunshine and roses, but compared to 10 or even 5 years ago, the changes are substantial.
So again, I pose the question “Do you remember what life was like before you knew the word “Transgender” …before there was a name to what you felt, and that you had a choice to be who you are? Now picture living like that in prison, where everyday the people who are responsible for your care, enforce and reinforce birth gender, dead names, incorrect pronouns.
There is a very REAL epidemic of “unawareness” still within the trans community. People who struggle with their identity because they have no idea what Transgender means. They see people talk about it in the media, but do not have the resources to find out more.
Ky is facing a difficult situation. He is incarcerated with many gender-nonconforming people, at all levels of the spectrum, but who have never had any education on gender identity and the spectrum. Obviously, the prison will not provide this type of education, as it is part of their procedures to ENFORCE biological sex and heteronormative gender roles. Some of the folks I talk to in the community say that it’s not for Ky to decide how these folks identify, and they have to decide for themselves. That may be true and well for those in the “free world” or folks with access to correct information, doctors, therapists, and support systems. But for folks who are being denied access to that information these people suffer from
- Severe depression
- Suicidal Thoughts
- Abuse that focuses on their identity
- Psychotic drug dependencies (self medicating )
What’s worse, they are dealing with all of the emotional issues that trans people face while in prison…It’s not just living in Hell, it’s living in Next Level Hell. Ky is trying to find more trans-masculine people who are willing to step up and demand fair treatment and medical care. But how can he do this when the folks he talks to have no clue that they are transgender, let alone that they have rights that are being violated. These are some of the exact responses he’s gotten from the people he has shared information with.
“Man, I don’t know what that is. I just like girls.”
“I ain’t never heard of that before, I always just felt like a guy.”
” I don’t believe in that stuff, my Moma say I’m gay and I’ll probably go to hell for it. ”
“If this trans thing is real, how come my doctor never told me about it?”
This is not uncommon for trans people without access to information and education in very rural parts of the country, especially in the Bible Belt. There are no trans friendly doctors or resources south of Macon in Georgia. (And that is just this state). This begs the question;
How can we show accurate statistics on the trans community when so many people are being left behind?
How can we help those who don’t know that what they are experiencing is real and that they are NOT alone?
When asked the question “How did I know if I’m trans?” I can promise, the answer is a lot more complicated that “You just do.”
I’m bringing these questions to light because many trans folks and activists take their self knowledge for granted. They have forgotten what is was like to feel the fear, and confusion that was their lives before understanding their identity. There are so so many who have yet to hear the “Trans Gospel”(if you will) and are still living in a Hell of lies. How do we help them?
~Ky and Pinky