Welcome to Trans 102.
Today we’ll be talking about names and the power it has over our lives.
Deadnaming- The intentional act of calling a transgender person by their former name in a very shitty and demeaning way.
Early this week, I came across an internet troll who lashed out at me, and in a very hurtful way started mocking me with my dead name (and saying a bunch of other horrible things as well).
It rattled me pretty bad.
A few days later, I had a discussion with a friend who encountered a situation where a young person, who happened to have been trans, was in a dangerous place. To compound matters worse, the child’s parent was insistent on dead naming her child. My friend went on to tell me how much this disturbed him.
Our conversation turned to respect and how much respect is important in the lives of transgender men and women. I told him how in my own life, being respected by using my name has been positive and life changing.
- When I picked my name almost 5 years ago, it became a verbal sign of recognizing who I was.
- When I sat in my car alone, holding my new drivers license, my first legal document bearing that name, I was overcome with emotion.
- When I heard the judge call me by name, standing in the presence of people who I love and care about.
“It’s when one values another’s achievements or abilities”
But what happens when a person is denied the basic right of respect?
What depths can a person sink to when all hope is lost?
I shared with my friend the statistic of how when a trans person is respected and affirmed, their mental health and overall sense of well-being begins to flourish…
Or the downside..where the suicide rate of trans children is far greater in situations there is neither respect or affirmation.
What power is in a name?
A name defines us. It singles us out in a crowd. It is hearing a radio shout out (do people still do those) by one of our dear friends who calls out your name for all to hear.
Our name is something which is…ours.
“Acknowledging the efforts, knowledge, courage, experience, wisdom, and earnest struggles of those around you.”
Teens and young adults face pressure from all fronts. Not only are they learning how to identify themselves, they are looking for validation. They are looking for the markers they are on the right course.
Growing up for me was a total and complete nightmare. I struggled hard with everything.
Having the concept drilled in your head that God is some big bad boogeyman who will cast us into a lake of fire if we didn’t accept His son as our Lord and personal savior really fucks with your head. Today I consider it like Mob Insurance. If you don’t pay up, you’re gonna end up in the bottom of the Hudson River wearing a pair of cement shoes.
My Catholic neighbor told me because I was never baptized, I was automatically bound for hell.
I faced bullies at every turn. Verbally and physically. I was shunned. I was beat up on the bus and on the walks home. I was the butt of all the jokes.
Having parents who cared more about their jobs left a wound that has never healed. When I shared stories of sadness and grief and all the things listed above, it really sucked to hear them say “Maybe God is trying to tell you something.”
Now…add on top of it my struggles with my sexuality (or what I thought at the time was my sexuality). It was the perfect storm.
I did what every good “Christian” child was supposed to do.
Hide, bury and deny.
(I was told during the coming out phase of my journey, when hearing my story of happiness…”Christians aren’t supposed to be happy. They’re supposed to sacrifice for others”. )
There was no respect. There was only ridicule and lots and lots of shame.
I made a way out by denying who I was.
“First and foremost loving yourself. When people see that, they respect you back, even when they disagree with you.”
Some teens aren’t as fortunate. Other than their parents, friends and school, they have no where to turn….and the church was never ever ever ever ever a place to feel safe.
Many never live to see the light of another day.
What hurts is the fact there are Evangelical parents who believe showing a transgender person any form of respect is a sin and disregarding the importance of their identity is somehow showing the love Jesus commanded us to show.
These kids are scared. They’re terrified days in and day out. They finally figure out who they are only to have it beat out of them.
“Willing to listen”
As I started coming out to people I was scared shitless. The thought of opening myself up to others paralyzed me. I knew of no one in my situation to ask advice. I sought out therapists and other counselors for help. Still, I was afraid.
I was afraid to lose my friends.
I was afraid to lose my children.
I was afraid to lose my wife.
I was afraid if I didn’t tell them and once more bury it all, I would never recover from the heartache.
Suicide was never an option. I was a seasoned professional when it came to hiding to behind a mask. I had many things to live for. To someone who is young and new to harshness and hate, things aren’t quite the same.
As my friend and I continued on in our talk, I reminded him, to the young trans person, hearing their name is huge. It tells them they are who they know they are. It tells them someone else believes in them.
I will give you hidden treasures,
Riches stored in secret places,
So that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel
Who summons you by name.
In Luke, when Jesus spotted the tax collector up in the tree, Jesus called him by his name. Jesus made sure Zaccheaus knew he was being spoken to. Jesus wanted him to be certain there was no mistake.
The power of a name.
There are many who trout out the bullshit line..
“Respect isn’t given. Respect is earned.”
We all deserve to be respected. We all deserve the common decency to be recognized.
In my previous article, I shared with all 3 or 4 of you how I have lost a few friends along this journey. It’s all true. I should add how fortunate I have been due to the respect, love and encouragement shown to me by some pretty amazing people.
I am first and foremost grateful to my wife Beth. She is a goddam saint! As much as I have been an absolute pain in the rear, she has shown me unwavering love and yes..respect. Beth as been my partner throughout all of this. I love you Bear.
Scattered through this post I have placed quotes to a question I posted on Facebook.
“What does Respect mean to you?”
Those who supplied me answers really helped to shape the words set forth before you.
To my friend, who inspired this post…yes I am crying right now. I am proud of you. Thank you for all you do for others.
As we head out of here, let’s hear it from the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin.
Photo Credit: Carrie Kizuka – www.carriekizuka.com