the universe is dimmer tonight

One of the many new things I have been involved with in recent months has been taking part in an episode currently being filmed for a national current affairs program in Canada called “16×9”.

They are producing an episode focused on violence experienced by the transgender community, and this should be ready for air during the week of the Transgender Day of Remembrance (November 20th every year).

Three of us recently sat down to be filmed having a conversation about our experiences as trans women with violence and other issues.  Over the course of 3 hours, we discussed being sexually assaulted (multiple times in most of our examples, I know I stopped counting at 4), being beaten, being insulted and catcalled on the street, being stabbed, shot, spat on and worse, the list is ugly and long.

At one point we began discussing the frustrations, reaching your limits, doing what it takes to make it to the next day, and what happens when you reach that point where you simply cannot face one more day of what you have endured.  Yes, we discussed if we had attempted suicide, what led up to it, when you reach the point of no return and it is the only viable option that you can see.  Each of us had made an attempt, each of us more than once.  Many people get squeamish when you raise the matter, but, how else can we educate people on the issues, if they don’t hear what happens to get you to the point of no return.  For those who can learn from it, I tell them about my two attempts, but I finish each time with, you’ll notice I’m still here, still functioning, but with a purpose and drive to change things for the better that I was missing before.

Now, one of the places my mind wanders off to, solely for self-preservation, is humor.  Because, when this discussion begins, I literally can hear myself say, pause for a second, because you know some twit is literally going to ask if you were successful. (Trust me, it’s happened more than once)

We also touched on mental health issues, and it is one of my areas that I lecture on frequently, using myself as one case study.  For those who wonder, I’ll give you the rundown, anxiety disorder, depression, dysphoria and complex-PTSD (C-PTSD), the last coming from years of dealing with a constant piling on of things which eventually becomes so unbearable that your mind starts to shut down.

During this conversation, we cried, we got emotional, we held each other’s hands, we raged about things, and got very terse about others.

But, the last portion of our conversation was that ray of hope for the future, how to fix society, how to change the world, how to prevent more unnecessary losses of lives vital to our global trans family.

Here was the important factor for this to all take place.

The producers and crew created a completely safe space to experience all of the things we had kept below the surface for many years.  Yes, the experience of pulling it out to look at it in the bare light of day can take an emotional toll (all three of us the next day said we had laid in bed staring at the ceiling all night while reliving some of it in our minds).  But, we did it in the hopes that when the editing is done, and the rest of the episode added, that sharing our stories may make that difference for that one person to realize what we experience every day, that another trans person who sees no hope can see that we are survivors and may hang on and reach out to someone for help. The producers are hoping to spur conversations from the episode that will bring these issues the visibility they need to be learned from and dealt with.

We left tired, but happy with the work we had put in, and knowing that we each had one more filming session as a camera crew would follow us to observe us going about our day and doing what we do to hopefully cause change for the better.

Then the news reached us later that evening or early the next morning. One of our shining stars, a young member of our Toronto Trans community had taken her own life.  I hate to say this, but, there has been so many occur in recent years, that you begin to develop a hard exterior to keep from being hit hard with the news of each one.  But, when it is a name you recognize, a face you remember, someone you recently had a conversation with, or a close friend had spent time trying to keep them safe… it is really devastating, it is like being hit by a transport truck when you are told the news and the floor falls out from underneath you, as you say to yourself, please, not one more.

People, we are losing our LGBTQIA+ youth at an increasing rate. Something must be done about this, otherwise who will follow us in this life.

This young trans woman’s light is no longer. May she sit with her creator and know peace and love.

The universe is dimmer tonight… another bright light has gone.

Leelah Alcorn implored us to fix society.  It is time to get to work or there will be no lights left to shine.

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.