Several days ago, a 15-year-old boy named Jamie Hubley from Ottawa, Canada committed suicide. A quote from his blog post:
I was almost named Jamie. My parents chose a different name. And it wasn't Dillan.
Yep. Newsflash. And you know what 9 out of 10 people say when I tell them that (if I do), "oh! What's your real name?" My name is Dillan. That's why I introduced myself as such and have it printed on my legal identification card. Asking me what my name used to be is something I have to deal with as someone who is transgender. Only if I share it, you see.
"My name is _______ Martin. This is my husband/partner, Tom." "Oh! What is your real name?" See? Doesn't happen. Welcome to the LGBTQ world. Where every day holds the potential to face discrimination, prejudice, intolerance, ignorance and bullying. Subtle little injuries like the one I shared above are the tip of the iceberg. I've shared some other examples in recent posts like Passing Privilege, Gay Soldiers Can Shoot Straight and Ding, Dong the Gays Can Wed! so take a moment to read them, if you haven't. Jamie's death is one of many LGBTQ suicides this year--most of which we will never even hear about either because they won't be reported (the family may fear further pubic harassment) or known about (if the family is estranged). Add multiple marginalized identities like race and physical ability and the numbers are even higher--and less publicized. Jamie's death is also especially poignant for me as I come out to more people as transgender. I am facing a whole new experience of coming out---when I thought I'd already endured the worst 11 years ago when I came out as dating women. I never understood my mother's feelings about my sexuality, but as I use the T word more and more--I am beginning to understand. She wants me to feel loved and supported, not ostracized and bullied. She fears I won't be cherished for the precious person I am. Even in 2011 and at my age, life is still a scary place to be me. You may read this and think it's matter of opinion--you may say, "well, I tolerate you, Dillan. I think you're great." And I am glad for that support but I need your awareness and advocacy, not your "tolerance". Because the reality is, there are more people than not who aren't ok with the LGBTQ. And it isn't so obvious---unlike the words and actions Jamie faced every day. Like subtle racism, sometimes transphobia or homophobia shows up as awkward behavior or conversation. It shows up as co-workers making assumptions and gossiping. It shows up as LGBTQ colleagues or friends calling my girlfriend a lesbian or bisexual because they "hate the word queer" despite the fact that she asks to be identified as such. It shows up as being othered and ostracized for being honest. It's that behavior--along with the blatant name-calling and physical abuse--that make young LGBTQ teens, youth, young adult and elders stay closeted. It's too late to save Jamie--and all the others who gave up because they felt hopeless and overwhelmed when they anticipated a life of all they had endured so far. But it's not too late for those in the LGBTQ community who NEED support and advocacy not only from each other but from heterosexual friends and family members. I had lunch with a friend yesterday, someone who was a really great listener and held the space for me to express some concerns and frustrations. She really "got it". I don't know how or why she understands the issues so well, but it was truly refreshing and comforting for her to understand what I was experiencing without me having to first explain why the word queer isn't a bad word in 2011. She had done her research and really was involved and invested in the LGBTQ community as a hetero ally, so she knew how to support me. I am very grateful for her presence in my life and for many others who spend time reading up and becoming aware of life outside their bubble of heterosexual privilege. As a white person, I prioritize this work surrounding the social construct of race and the impact of racism---so I really appreciate when hetero folks do it for sexual orientation and gender identity. I encourage you to express your support and concern for these issues and the people who live them while they are around to hear you. Jamie didn't feel supported or loved. Make sure people in your life, who you know are struggling, are aware of your support. It means so much. If you want to be even more in the know and make a larger impact in the lives of LGBTQ people you know and love here are some books you can read: Just Add Hormones by Matt Kailey Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity by Matt Berstein Sycamore Gender Outlaw by Kate Bornstein My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult (a freakin' amazing example of a hetero writer using her tremedous popularity and visibility to bring more light to issues facing a marginalized community. Heck yeah, Jodi.) Please comment with additions to this list.