Thursday, August 25, 2011

TG Day of Remembrance

Originally posted on LJ 11-20-2007

So today is Transgender Day of Remembrance. To commemorate it, I wrote a piece called There's Something About "Deception" which was posted on yesterday - it touches on the myth of deception and violence directed against trans people. That got me thinking about an old piece that appears in my first poetry chapbook called Either/Or. The piece was called "scared to death" - here it is...

scared to death

[author’s note: I specifically wrote this piece for, and first performed it on, the fourth annual Transgender Day of Remembrance (November 20, 2003). I dedicated it to the twenty-five people who were murdered that year for being transgendered]

few people make it through high school
without having at least one classmate commit suicide
for me, it was tony newman
in eleventh grade
he locked himself in the garage
with the car running
the act seemed so unlike him
he was one of the few popular kids
who everyone genuinely liked
and every time i saw him
he was either laughing
or making someone else laugh
apparently, he never spoke about being depressed
and he didn’t leave a note
so the reason he took his own life
remained a mystery
it lingered like a lump in people’s throats

i had a theory
that i never shared with anyone
i wondered whether tony felt like i did
i was transgendered
although at the time
i didn’t have a word for it
but i was good enough at math
to know that statistically
there had to be at least a few other people
keeping the same secret
and i don’t know if tony was transgendered
but i put two and two together
because i knew
that suicide had crossed my mind
a few hundred times
and i knew
that i’d rather be dead
than be caught dressed as a girl
and i knew
how much it hurt
to have thoughts that you don’t want
but you can’t turn off

and now i know
that this is nothing new
there are statistics that suggest
that up to 50 percent of transgendered people
try to end their life
if not by suicide, then indirectly through substance abuse
and everyday i consider myself lucky
to have made it this far
although sometimes
i still feel like i’m only one step away from the grave
because once every two weeks
someone like me is murdered
for being transgendered
and these are no unfortunate accidents
no victims of circumstance
these victims
are almost always beating beyond recognition
these are attempts at total obliteration
and i can’t help but wonder whether i am next
because at least once a week
i get up on stage and out myself
in songs and spoken word pieces
and i worry that this makes me a target
because all it takes is one asshole in the audience
who feels that his manhood
is threatened by my mere existence

but i remind myself
that there are many ways to die
and the slowest
most torturous one of all
is being scared to death
because being intimidated into silence
is like being suffocated
in both cases
someone else is taking your last breath
so tonight i speak
on behalf of an entire endangered species
because i know
that silence really does equal death
and i know
that the only thing that stops injustice is protest
and my words are a tribute
to every transgendered voice that has been silenced
whether by suicide
or homicide
or those who are still alive
but frightened into keeping quiet
and i hope
that this piece will be
one of a million small acts
that together
add up
to fighting back


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