20th November is Transgender Day of Remembrance, something that I had never heard of until a few months ago. But that’s not surprising. Not many people have heard of this. And the whole world that transgender people live in seems to be largely invisible to the wider population as well, something which I feel is a significant sign of the prevalence of social invisibility in our society today. We are an inclusive University, here at Swansea, and have a strong commitment to combatting inequality and supporting diversity. We’ve all had the training, but how many of us can begin to truly understand what it is to be transgender and to live in a word where there is a constant threat of abuse? I decided to write my blog to celebrate and mark this day not by looking at statistics and public messages, but to explore some issues relating to this in our current political context.
The rates and prevalence of attacks against trans people are high, unacceptably so. Today, I note with grief the death of a transgender woman who was detained in a male prison. My heart goes out to her friends and family. I am saddened. That could have been my friend, my lover. Anyone of these people who lose their lives is the same as my sister, my brother, my friend. We are all human beings, members of the human race. Any abuse against another individual, any physical or other aggression, is unacceptable. That we have a day to remember the trans people who have lost their lives, or been seriously injured, due to prejudice and ignorance, is a sign of the injustice which still persists in our own society. In the wake of global tragedies, and the resulting global outrage, it seems that these ‘small’ deaths are invisible, except to the loved ones of the victims. But we should be just as outraged, just as appalled, to hear of anyone being injured or murdered, especially when that is motivated by hate. Hate crimes destroy our society and undermine the fabric of equality that we continue to weave.
I was shocked, reading on article today, that most trans people fear abuse when they go out in public, and some will stay at home rather than risk going out. No one should live in fear. Today I heard a man on the radio saying that a reporter should not be speaking out against terrorism, in order to avoid provoking them. I disagree. We should always stand up to bullies, and never limit our activities, or silence our voices, just because someone threatens us. But I understand that fear of leaving the house. My family suffered four years of ‘neighbourhood abuse’ with no redress. Eventually we moved until we found a place we could live our life in freedom. But that is not always an option for people. And for our transgender friends, colleagues, family, and all those we do not know but claim kinship with by our shared diversity and humanity, all that can be said is that everyone should be free to live their lives without harm. Standing up to bullies is hard. How much harder is it when you have to prepare yourself to do that every single day of your life?
We can only work towards equality if we look straight into the eye of prejudice and hate and say, “no more.” Today, Transgender Day of Remembrance, is a chance to do just that. You may not understand but you can open your mind, you may fear what you do not understand, but knowledge is power. You may not agree with the views and lifestyles of everyone, but you can practice tolerance, compassion and acceptance regardless of difference. It breaks my heart that we have a day to raise awareness of hate crime and violence against a particular group of people in society. Our only way forward, as a University community, is tolerance.
These are my personal views, but as co-chair of the LGBT+ Staff network, I fully believe they are applicable to us as an academic community. We all contribute to the furtherance of knowledge and understanding: through research, through education, through collaboration, through publication. We are all part of something bigger. And no one plays any more important a role than anyone else. We are all equally important, and every single one of us counts.
In memory of all those who have lost their lives to violence and hatred.
Dr Alys Einion
LGBT+ Staff Network co-chair
Alys Einion November 20th, 2015
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