July 4, 2017
TRANS WOMEN DIVIDED: Institutional oppression forces us to compete against each other
By Kayla Lozano
It is no secret that women are generally pitted against each other; and for Transgender women, this seems to be the rule.
As a transgender woman, I have experienced a life-long journey of struggle and defeat. However, the oppressors that try to keep me down (and they DO try very hard), are what fuel me to rise to the top.
You see, for transgender women, our lives are a constant battle for visibility and acceptance by others, and of ourselves. There are a number of factors that weigh heavy on our shoulders, and hearts.
As young children, we learn to fight a never-ending and all-to-consuming war against our own selves. Our minds – so young, innocent, and naïve – cannot comprehend why our outsides do not match our insides. We learn how to be secretive about playing “dress-up” and trying on make-up. We also learn about shame. We learn to hate our bodies, and ourselves. We first learn the disappointment of a mother or disapproval of a father, because we played with dolls, or acted too feminine. Sadly, at this age, we also learn that we may never REALLY find complete happiness (and remember, we are barely children). We learn to feel that we are all alone.
As teenagers and young adults, our minds and our bodies start to develop. For male-to-female transgender teens this can be devastating. The body changes and testosterone begins to set in. Facial hair growth and the deepening of voices begins to consume our thoughts for days on end. We learn to despise our bodies and that we are alone. No one understands what we are going through, but how could they? We choose to suffer in silence for fear of nonacceptance, and disapproval. We learn to lose respect for ourselves, and low self-esteem becomes commonplace.
As teens, the fight is not only within ourselves, but with others. This is a time when bullies seem to be everywhere – constantly hurting us, taunting us, and laughing at our expense. This is a time when teachers may discriminate you for being different and overtly shy. This is a time when you feel lost and alone because everyone has a boyfriend/girlfriend, but you. This is a time when you begin to lose your childhood friends, because they have turned on you and are now bullying you also.
We cannot believe this is happening to us – why must we be alone?
As adults some of us chose to come out and begin the transition process. No longer do we have to worry about feeling awkward at school. For many of us, we drop out of school, or do not even attempt college. At this age, we may be disowned by our parents and family, because we choose to express who we truly are. We become ostracized from our church – the one where we served as altar boys for years, because our church does not accept “people like us.” We lose our jobs, because employers are not accepting of our community, and so they do not even give us a second look.
So now, we have no – or very little – family support, we have lost most of our friends, we have been excommunicated from our church, we cannot find employment, and we’ve been carrying a lifetime of oppression and low self-esteem in our hearts and minds.
The very country we live in, the one that we grew up pledging allegiance to every morning at school, the very country that we are taught to be proud and celebrate because it is a bastion of hope, peace, and liberty for all, refuses to acknowledge our existence and right to live, while politicians demonize and condemn us, and cower behind religion in order to pursue their hate for us. No one wants to hear us, no one wants to help us, and so many want to abuse and kill us.
Once again, we remain alone; alone in our thoughts, alone in our feelings (which seem to not matter to anyone), alone in our fears, and alone in our trust.
What else is there left, you may ask?
Unfortunately, this is just the beginning of what can be, and has been the story for too many of my transgender sisters.
So we end up on the streets, because we are no longer welcome at home. We go hungry because we have no income to feed and support us. Obtaining social services that are generally set aside to give aid, cannot help us because we have no work history, or even a steady address. So what are we left to do?
We become introduced to alcohol and resort to drugs to help numb the pain and allow us to free ourselves of society’s hatred, anger, and fear of us.
Tougher yet, we seek out partners who abuse and destroy us, call us names and rip us apart with their words. Some of them even kill us, and all we ever wanted was to find love, and to no longer walk alone.
Sadly, the majority of transgender women are forced into the sex industry. With low self-esteems and broken hearts, we lose the ONLY thing we do have – respect.
So we get dressed up in our sluttiest dress and walk the streets to try to make money, some of us work in gay nightclubs, devoting our entire lives to performing as entertainers, and puppets for club owners (because let’s face it, this is the only place where we can get attention). Others resort to internet modeling, where we lose our clothes, as well as our dignities, and perform in front of cameras for the world to see. Then there are those of us who become escorts, and fly around the country daily, while calling hotels and motels home, and wondering if the next john will pay full price, or kill us. All this to survive. All this to feel like a part of society. All this to try to keep our sanity.
For some transgender women this is not a factor. There are those who make it through societal barriers, either as chameleons or out and proud for all to see. They finish school and find jobs that allow them to succeed and to persevere. They join the armed forces and endure torment, ridicule, and abuse by other soldiers, just to fight for a country that chooses to turn its back on providing protection and granting equality for ALL. These are considered the lucky trans women; however, their struggle is just as real and just as hard as any other trans woman.
Transgender women are forced to navigate through abuse, bullying, torment, discrimination, and even murder. We learn to lose respect for ourselves and for our bodies. We trust no one, and tread cautiously through life, always turning around to watch our backs.
We are thrust into survival techniques that divide us and force us to compete with other trans women, trying to survive, just like us, because all our lives we have learned to fight for our independence and now CHOOSE to be alone.
Society has broken us, desensitized us, abandoned us, murdered us, and pitted us against each other.
All we can do is push forward, alone, because that is how we have gotten through much of our journey. Alone.
Transgender women, know your worth. Learn to respect your bodies. Protect yourselves from predators whose only wish is to harm you. Avoid the bottomless pit that is addiction to drugs and alcohol. Cover your bodies and understand that real beauty comes from within. Celebrate your intelligence, your creativity, your strength and perseverance. Challenge yourselves positively, and allow yourselves to be visible. Demand to be heard, even when nobody will listen. Mourn the lives of your trans sisters, who died tragic deaths, and can no longer do what you can do. Strengthen your minds and start repairing your hearts. Celebrate each other, and know that we have ALL suffered in some way, shape, or form. Society is set against us, and challenges our livelihood and civil rights, that allow us to walk with our heads held high. This is the same democracy that would rather see us suffer and divided.
Work with each other. Work for each other. Support each other, and respect one another. The fight is not against each other, but against those who seek to silence us forever.