Editors' note: Frequent guest blogger and TAVA president Monica Helms tackles the subject of anger in the T part of LGBT.
Recently, there has been a heated discussion on The Bilerico Project about the emotion of anger. I have written articles on love and being in love and finding love, but I have never tackled the very misunderstood emotion of anger. I felt that this could be a challenge to spark my meager writing talents. Here goes.
I will be the first to admit I can get angry at times. I have no delusion about this one bit. I don't deny it like others try to do. It has been made apparent several times that I am one of the biggest mixer of feces on blogs, in articles and on Yahoo lists. Yep, I even bought a huge wooden spoon at Target to make the mixing easier. Sometime, it's real anger, while others is more like faux anger, or even "anger lite." Less filling.
I decided that I would approach the idea of discussing anger in the transgender community by looking at the causes. Regardless of how I approached this subject, I could end up angering some people with this article. Open discourse is highly welcomed. I will also not ignore the comments after this article, because I hope to provide more input as questions and comments come up.
Let's start with the Dictionary.com definition of "anger:"
Noun - a strong feeling of displeasure and belligerence aroused by a wrong; wrath; ire.
Synonyms - Resentment, exasperation; choler, bile, spleen. Anger, fury, indignation, rage imply deep and strong feelings aroused by injury, injustice, wrong, etc. Anger is the general term for a sudden violent displeasure: a burst of anger. Indignation implies deep and justified anger: indignation at cruelty or against corruption. Rage is vehement anger: rage at being frustrated. Fury is rage so great that it resembles insanity: the fury of an outraged lover. Displease, vex, irritate, exasperate, infuriate, enrage, incense, madden.
How much of that describes the experiences and feelings of the majority of the transgender community? Quite a bit, if you ask me. Noticed the words, "Strong feelings aroused by injury, injustice, wrong, etc." Have transgender people ever been "injured"? Have they faced "injustice"? Have they been "wronged"? And people wonder why we're angry. Some transgender people of wealth and privilege also seem to wonder why the rest of us become angry so easily, because they have rarely ever faced any of the above mentioned experiences.
Now that we have shown the definition of the word "anger," let's explore how it specifically relates to the transgender community. "Why would any transgender person become angry?" Most of us are painfully aware that once we start our transition we could lose everything. I lost my parents, my family, my children and all of my friends. However, I am one of the lucky ones because I didn't lose my job. I have been working for the same company for eighteen and a half years, spending eleven of those years as Monica.
Over the years, I gained back my children and the rest of the family. I had to lose my father before my mother accepted me back. I still don't have any contact with my pre-Monica friends, but I have made more friends in the past eleven years then I ever made in the previous forty-six.
As I said, I am one of the lucky ones. Others are not so lucky. Job discrimination has spiraled out of control in this community. Being fired for being trans, then not getting hired after applying for hundreds of jobs can make a person angry. No wonder people become upset with a non-inclusive ENDA and the people who created it and supported it. For all practical purposes the supporters of that bill are saying to the unemployed trans person that their situation doesn't matter.
Trans people are getting the message that only the gender-conforming, queer people deserve their rights first, so they become angry because of that perception. This makes the unemployed transgender person feel even more isolated. Some LGB people who have the money and the time to fight for equal rights seem not want to help the transgender community. Their message is that those who cannot spend time or money to speak up for themselves don't deserve their attention. It does nothing but increase the anger.
What about "injustice?" The courts appeared to have been stacked against us for a very long time. Just a simple divorce proceeding can turn into the Spanish Inquisition, complete with rack. Every bit of the trans person's intimate secrets get plastered all over the court records, making him or her look like the worst human since Genghis Khan. All of his or her assets end up being given over to the spouse, as well as the custody of the children. The trans person becomes saddled with all the bills and child support. And, if he or she has a decent job, they still live paycheck to paycheck. This one form of injustice can make a person very angry and usually does.
Other court proceedings have had more devastating results. Just read over court cases of Christie Lee Littleton and J'Noel Gardiner and you'll get an idea of what I'm talking about. Michael Kantaras' custody case in Florida in 2002 was no picnic for him, even though he won the case. Peter Oiler lost his discrimination case against Winn Dixie in 2003 and I personally saw how angry he became from that. The job discrimination case against the Library of Congress involving Diane Schroer still awaits future results. Hopefully those results won't increase our anger. There have been many more court cases where transgender people went to court for discrimination reasons, custody battles and other rights, only to be shown the door for their troubles. Did they become angry? Sure they did. Oh yes, there have been some wins, but the percentage seems very low, making the anger very high.
Various forms of discrimination and injustice can make transgender people angry. Violence is another. In 1998, the Remembering Our Dead list came into existence with about 100 names. Today, the list contains over 400 names. You can find the updated list and all of the associated information with the International Transgender Day of Remembrance on this new site. Those are the most drastic examples of violence against transgender people.
In the recent survey done by the Transgender American Veterans Association, we asked, "Have you ever been a victim of violence?" Out of 821 transgender veterans who answered that question, 211 said "Yes." That comes to 25.7%. When asked, "Have you ever been raped?" 128 out of 813 said "Yes." We also asked, "Have you ever been physically assaulted at a VA facility?" and seven out of 313 said "Yes." That comes to 2.2%. All of this shows that one out of every four transgender people have faced some form of violence. Not only do these numbers anger the people who have faced the violence, but it also angers the entire community.
Others things seem to anger transgender people. I will name three things that have been the focus of many transgender people's anger for nearly a year now. HRC, ENDA and Barney Frank. Need I say more? Barney Frank began the process of splitting up the LGBT community, and even caused a rift within the transgender community when he substituted a fully inclusive ENDA with a non-inclusive one. Joe Solmonese promised that HRC would only support a fully inclusive ENDA and HRC went back on his word two weeks later.
After that, trans people who worked with HRC jumped ship and others, sensing a vacuum or a chance to "get ahead," filled their places. Just saying nice things about HRC or trying to quell the anger of others can get you hate mail. I lost a friend because of this anger. Of course, I cannot condense all of the events and all of the feelings of the last year into two paragraphs. Suffices to say, anger has played a huge part of the feelings by the transgender community when it comes to what some may characterize as our "Axis of Evil."
When I wrote articles of love and me finding love, I felt extreme joy and happiness. Writing this article about anger has not been a pleasant task. Several of the examples I used have caused me to become angry, both in the past and today. No one can quantify anger, or to really define it. I just hope that when people read this, they may have a little better understanding on why you see transgender people get angry. Just remember this. What you hear them say or write just might be the tip of their anger.
Many different things could cause a transgender person to become angry. Many things.