Every year, November 20th is the day when transgender people, and those who support us, come together on the Transgender Day of Remembrance. We formally recognize trans people who passed away from unnatural causes (murder or suicide) in the preceding 12 months.
I hosted such an event today, in my apartment, just after midnight (as in, during the first few minutes of the 20th). In attendance was one other trans girl, a friend of mine who at some point not that long ago was struggling with depression. Nowadays, a couple of months after moving to Nevada, she seems to be happy and thriving.
I’ve attended Transgender Day of Remembrance events hosted elsewhere, and these are somber and unhappy occasions in which the attendees take turns to read a name, the matching location, and how that trans person died. It’s often horrific stuff, e.g., Jane Doe, a trans girl in Anytown, USA was attacked by a bunch of street thugs, and here are the details as to how they killed her. More often than not, the murder victims were trans girls, and often they were disfigured while being murdered, and they died painfully. It’s certainly a stark and sobering ceremony. I can’t help crying while I’m reading the names and specifics.
My own hosted Transgender Day of Remembrance event tends to have a much different tone. If I know a trans girl who passed away from unnatural causes (murder or suicide) in the preceding 12 months, I tell her story, in depth and detail. This year, nobody. Good! So that would make it the shortest event in history. However, I don’t stop there. I continue on to the subject of: “and let’s keep it that way” with a discussion on personal happiness, and personal safety.
As to the personal happiness, everyone in attendance was already intent on living a long and happy life. Not much to say, there.
As to personal safety, there was a lot to say. It’s a sad fact that people do exist who choose to initiate physical violence against others. These aggresors can affects trans girls in three possible ways:
- Coincidence, as in being in the wrong place at the wrong time
- Being the target of someone who’s specifically focused on trans girls
- Being the target of someone who’s focused on soft targets, and believes trans girls to qualify
As to the latter, my approach to personal defense is like the national defense policy of Israel. I don’t care how many irrational people want me dead: I refuse to go along with that, and I’m cheerfully ready to fight vigorously in my own self-defense. You might as well go look for trouble with a wolverine. Whoever thinks I’m a soft target hasn’t been paying attention.
A trans girl friend of mine makes no bones about this. Nevada is an “open carry” state, and she cheerfully carries a massive handgun around in a holster on her hip … as far as I know, whenever she’s out and about. I love her spirit, and in essence she’s adhering to the same principle as I do. Our styles are, however, very different.
I’ve found that I can discourage violence in part by showing how quietly confident I am. In guy culture there’s a useful phrase: “I can handle myself.” I make a point of personifying it, and my attitude seems to reflect that.
In the West (east of the California border, anyway) there is a saying that it’s better to be judged by twelve than carried by six, meaning that it’s better to be on the winning side of a fight to the death, and then have to justify my actions to a jury. I don’t intend ever to initiate violence, but if someone else does, then the saying applies to me.
That’s part of why I think that betting everything on carrying a gun might make me less safe. I do own firepower but I’m wary to carry it even though I have a permit. Hollywood movies tend to paint the picture that a handgun is something you wave in the general direction of an aggressor, and when you shoot, there’s a not-too-loud noise, and the bad guy drops dead immediately.
The reality is a lot more stark if you’re being attacked, and you’re the only one with a gun. You might be caught by surprise, and you don’t even have enough time to begin to draw your gun. Because you’re rushing, you might have butterfingers, so you might get it stuck while trying to get it out of the holster. You might pull the trigger prematurely and shoot yourself, or be so startled at the noise that you drop the gun or lose the few wits you had about you. You might not get the safety catch released. You might not have a round chambered. You might hold the gun incorrectly so that it hurts your hand when you fire. You might not aim well enough, so you might miss. Even if you do hit your target, it’s statistically most likely to be 200 pounds of angry male aggression rushing toward you, so your chances of stopping him with one bullet means that this one bullet had better hit in a very debilitating place, and realistically, you’re lucky if you hit the onrushing attacker at all, never mind in a place where it matters. Even if your bullet does kill the attacker, he might die several minutes or hours after he’s killed you.
I’m all for your right to carry and use a hand-gun for self-defense, but it’s no magical death-ray. If a handgun is part of your defense plan, then learn how to use it. Be realistic as to its limitations, even as you get trained and become proficient. Few things have been as humbling to me as attending handgun training, and to see how difficult it was for me to hit a large, stationary target that wasn’t all that far away. And, that was with ear protection and eye protection. If an attacker is rushing me, then if my training was effective enough that I get off one or two shots fired off in the right direction, it means I have hot metal bullet jackets flying through the air, perhaps hitting me in the eyes. Also, loudness increases dramatically the closer your ear is to the source of noise, so having the gun go off so close to your ear might freak you out. Gun noise is so loud that it’s hard for me to think clearly afterward, if I was anywhere near where the gun went off.
Keep in mind that whoever is outside your door (or in some cases, coming in your door) might be law enforcement. If you shoot at an officer, you’re likely to end up either dead from return fire, or in prison for a very long time. This point isn’t lost on assholes, so an intruder might pretend to be the police, so that you get tricked into letting your guard down. Can you tell the difference? Your life might depend on it — and often, not just yours.
Whomever you’re shooting at might also be a neighbor, or a family member, or a friend or a lover who had no malicious intent. If it was all a misunderstanding then saying “sorry” doesn’t undo the harm that a bullet can do.
I grew up in guy culture, so I’m clear that guns score major bragging rights in macho culture — but for me, the reality of owning a gun is very sobering. In my opinion my gun is less glamorous than my toilet plunger.
Death is a tragic event. Even if the person dying is someone who initiated violence, and was thoroughly evil, there’s still the tragedy of what might have been if he’d afterward chosen to become a good person. Death removes the opportunity to redeem oneself. It’s all over. And, pulling out a gun means that there’s the stench of imminent death in the air. Many lives will be dramatically changed, including that of innocents.
Before handguns came along, the strongest person typically prevailed, unless you knew combat craft that swayed things in your favor. I personally have formal training in Judo and Karate, and I’m very clear that it takes a several years to learn and polish these skills to anything approaching a useful level, in actual combat.
Handguns are indeed an equalizer in a combat situation. The phrase “God Created Men and Sam Colt Made Them Equal” … it makes a good point. If a 5′ tall 100-pound girl is attacked by a 6’6″ tall 240 pound aggressor, a gun in her hand can make his size irrelevant — but only if she uses it effectively.
I look forward to the day when the Transgender Day of Remembrance becomes pointless because we are all living in harmony together. Trans or otherwise, that’s how it should be. Initiating violence is the ultimate transgression, but there are other ways of hurting people too. I’m actively enthused about all of that ending.
Meanwhile, if you’re a trans girl living in a place that makes you unusually likely to be mentioned in the 2018 Transgender Day of Remembrance, I hope that you get out. Move out, move out West, and come live in a place of acceptance and harmony. You have every right to have your rights respected, and to pursue your happiness without living in fear.