my life is not a joke

#MyLifeIsNotAJoke

This was a campaign from the summer of 2014 from the Metro Trans Umbrella Group. The image with this column was my quote for their campaign.

Here is why we need a reminder that Transgender lives are not jokes yet again.

Before you read further, this is required:

TRIGGER WARNING – HATE SPEECH & TRANSPHOBIA

A close and very dear friend, who is like my own family, recently came out publicly as a trans woman on Facebook and on her YouTube channel. I am extremely proud of her for her courage in acknowledging her truth.

Wednesday evening, we met to have dinner at one of our favorite spot to discuss how things have been going so far, and what’s next for her.

I am rather well-known in my neighborhood, and people have, for the most part, been very open, welcoming, and, friendly to myself and to my trans friends when we get together to share a meal and some laughs. The owners of this establishment have been very vocal and strong supporters of our entire LGBTQIA+ communities in Toronto. But, there are some who despise this support, and are actively trying to damage the business. The gossip has been quite vicious in nature.

We had a grand time together, and parted ways, happy and content, and myself feeling quite pleased with how well things have progressed for her so far.

An individual who was in the restaurant sent a graphic meme to my Facebook inbox much later that evening, titled, My Logic. I am only sharing the text from it here, and again, a trigger warning for this language:

cutting off your pecker doesn’t make you a woman,
it just makes you a guy that cut off his damn pecker

I woke up to this waiting for me Thursday morning, a graphic meme that has been making the rounds on Facebook. Saw this at the same time the news appeared in my various news feeds that another trans woman had been murdered overnight in the U.S.

This meme and others like it are repeatedly reported to Facebook. Facebook provides the same canned response each time, “we reviewed your complaint but found that the image in question does not violate Facebook’s community standards.” Good to know that Facebook is a supporter of transphobia and the promotion of hatred against the Transgender community.

What made this situation worse was this was somebody who many of us had considered a friend. This person is a senior employee of the Salvation Army. So, yet again, we have an example of the homophobia, transphobia, and, outright hatred that still beats in the hearts and pulpits of that organization.

Friends who are members of my city’s police service have viewed this. One said, in all my years on the job, I have never seen such an overt display of hate speech and aggression expressed by one individual.

Friends at PFLAG who have seen this are disgusted and infuriated by it.

Contacts in the business world were similarly sickened by this. One of them said that the only thing missing from it was a confederate flag and white hoods.

The level of rage boiling in my heart the day that this showed up is something that I have never felt so acutely before. The body count continues to rise, particularly among trans women of color, but something like this is supposed to be funny while promoting further hatred and violence against us.

I have been lucky to receive the support that I have after the news of this incident spread. I had many conversations with Derrick and Christian, but what touched me was the very first thing they said: “Are you okay?” We have discussed how to write this, as this story must be told, particularly occurring at the exact time the news breaks of another trans life lost to violence. And, honestly, I cannot leave this elephant in the room unmentioned.

Homophobia, transphobia, racism, misogyny and transmisogyny must be called out, or the situation will never change. Violence and hatred must be named and shamed in all cases.

We must do better. We can do better. We must fix society and make the world a better place for all people. But dammit, keep my trans family safe!

I had considered many options, and when contacted by an anti-hate LGBTQIA+ group run by an activist friend, I allowed them to take this on and try to bring a satisfactory resolution to it. You can follow them on Twitter at @ENDhatelaws and on Facebook their page is #ENDhatelaws. They tried reaching out, attempted to find a way to quietly resolve this matter. All they got was stonewalling and corporate-speak from the Salvation Army. They took the matter to social media to expose the strong undercurrent of hatred in that organization. The individual who sent this has not been named or shamed publicly, even though many believe it is necessary.

There are many pros and cons to taking action over issues like this. I will address them separately in another column in future.

I will say this…

Those who saw this and laughed hilariously at it, but at least had the realization after a few minutes what the true meaning was, and came back and apologized…

MY LIFE IS NOT A JOKE.

Those who thought this was just this person being goofy and funny, and I should lighten up…

MY LIFE IS NOT A JOKE.

And now that the backlash has begun because I dared to stand up and call out hatred and transphobia, the typical comment being, “f*****g trannies, can’t take a f*****g joke!” and much worse, I shall take my leave of society for a time until the dust settles.

But let this be heard…

At any time I perceive any threat to my friend, my reaction will be swift and severe, she is like a daughter, and I will become very ferocious to protect her.

My global trans family are my family. I will not stand for the ongoing violence and hatred against them.

And the next time somebody opens their mouth to be “funny” about something trans-related, remember this line…

MY LIFE IS NOT A JOKE!

In the meantime, please remember to LOVE each other INTENSELY.

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Christine Newman is a proud transgender woman in Toronto. She is an activist and advocate with 33 years experience, a writer, lecturer, and artist. She is also a columnist for Gender Fabulous! Magazine, Living Toronto Journal, and INspired Media.