Between Two Worlds: TERF’s, Transphobia and Transgender Violence

Between Two Worlds: TERF’s, Transphobia and Transgender Violence August 25, 2018

I recently read The Wild Hunt article about the “Pussy Church” and was appalled. When are TERF’s and others who spout hatred for the transgender community going to realize that articles like that can encourage transgender violence.  (In July, I wrote about TERF’s and Transphobia in the Pagan Community.) 

Now it seems like the hatred for trans people is just continuing on and on. It would be wonderful if we could come together as a community with loving kindness and respect for all of us. On all sides of this issue. Especially in our pagan community! 

Image by James Cridland via Flickr. CC 2.0 License. (Some trimming of the photo by the editor.)

Where does all of this lead? First we start with transphobia. Here’s how Wikipedia defines the term:

“Transphobia is a range of negative attitudes, feelings or actions toward transgender people. It can be emotional disgust, fear, violence, anger, or discomfort felt or expressed towards people who don’t conform to society’s gender expectation. It is often expressed alongside homophobic views and is often considered an aspect of homophobia. Transphobia is a type of prejudice and discrimination similar of racism and sexism.”

Transphobia has been around for a very long time. In the 1950’s and 60’s, a lot of the gay and trans community was harassed, vilified, and attacked, by a lot of our society. They used their religious values, quoting the Bible, as ways to marginalize our community. In a lot of cities, especially around the civil rights and Vietnam era, hatred spilled over to violence. In New York City, the police used violence as a way to try and get rid of people like us. Then June 28, 1969, the gay and trans community started fighting back. It was called the Stonewall Riots.  Unfortunately, it was to lead to more violence, especially to trans people. The media a lot of times sided with the authorities. 

“Standard License” copyright Juan Jesús Garrido Sánchez-Lafuente

Being a closeted trans person in the military at that time really scared me. Don’t ask, don’t tell was to come much later, after I left the military with eight years service. Enough was enough. It had been time to go. After I got out, the civil rights movement and Vietnam escalated, and trans violence was swept under the table. But it didn’t disappear. A lot of the trans violence then wasn’t reported on the news anymore. 

Transgender violence started to be identified and recorded as early as March of 1970. But a lot of the early data was incomplete. Then in 1998, the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) was born. It was set aside to memorialize those who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. The event is held on November 20th each year. It was started to honor Rita Hester, whose murder on November 28th, 1998 kicked off the “Remembering Our Dead” web project and started with a candlelight vigil in San Francisco in 1999. Her murder – like most anti-transgender cases – has yet to be solved. We live in times more sensitive than ever to hatred based violence, especially since September 11th. The data is collected from November 20th the previous year to November 19, of the current year.

In our Pagan community, Circle Sanctuary has been a leader for many years in observing the Transgender Day of Remembrance. I have been very blessed to participate in several of them. Last year, for the first time, Circle Sanctuary produced a Facebook live video of it. 

Photo by Ross Burgess, Wikimedia Commons by the UK LGBT Archive as part of the LGBT Free Media Collective coordinated by Wikimedia LGBT and WikiQueer. (Photo slightly edited by editor.) CC 4.0 License.

There are many sources of data that are collected each year on transgender violence. Among some of the best are the Human Rights Campaign, The Pink News (UK), and some Facebook groups, such as Trans Violence News of which I’ve been blessed to be an administrator and moderator of since July 2016. All of us see, every day, the violence perpetrated on us worldwide. And it’s not pleasant to see and read about. But we use social media to pay respect to those who have lost their lives to these senseless acts.

Before 2015 we had numerous transgender deaths in the United States that were reported. But in 2015, by the time the presidential election was over, our sources with the TDOR indicated that we lost 21 lives to murder. Keep in mind, there are a lot more deaths that are never reported by the media. In 2015, the deaths were the most ever reported in one year. In 2016, 23 deaths were reported. In 2017 we lost 28 lives to murder. Worldwide, it was many hundreds, especially in Brazil. From data I collected from January 1st to July 31st, 2017 we lost 11 lives. The same period this year, 2018 we are at 16 lives lost. Where does it end!

While the details of these cases differ, it is clear that fatal violence disproportionately affects transgender women of color, and that the intersections of racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia conspire to deprive them of employment, housing, healthcare and other necessities, barriers that make them vulnerable. But it happens to all of us. 

Then we have to consider the bullying, especially against our transgender youth. Teen suicides are on the rise, even with all the information available to us today. A lot of teens who come out to their parents are marginalized and even kicked out of their homes, sometimes at an early age. Some of them end up on the streets homeless if nobody wants to help them. 

Overall, transgender suicides, or those that attempt suicides, are more than the war veterans we have coming home lately. One of the latest statistics is that over 40% of all transgender people have at least thought about suicide. Including me when I was younger. If you know any transgender person who is thinking about suicide, have them, or you, call the National Trans Life Line at (877) 565-8860.

Where will this transphobia and transgender violence end? When transgender people are granted complete and affirming access to society at large. Through love towards us fellow human beings. Though education and respect for all.

We need to educate, help, respect, and listen to each other’s opinions. Constructively. Transphobia really needs to be totally out of our pagan community so we can be stronger together! 

So until next time, in the future. Blessed Be!!! 

About Brianne Raven Wolf
Brianne Ravenwolf has identified as a Pagan from a very young age. She is an active member of Circle Sanctuary in Wisconsin. She volunteers her time there helping at most Full Moon Rituals, as well as some workshops, Circle events, and Sanctuary work days. At Pagan Spirit Gathering (PSG) last year, she became the first Pagan Transwoman to have the Senioring Rite of Passage. She follows a Hekatean Witchcraft Spiritual Path. To relax, she likes to walk, camp, and hike as much as possible in very rural areas. Brianne is also an avid reader, especially young adult novels. Her latest YA book read was "Belle Dame Sans Merci" by Astrea Taylor. You can read more about the author here.
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