Editors' Note: Guest blogger Monica Helms is the President of the Transgender American Veterans Association.
The music changes to deep bass tones and the woman on the screen backs up slowly into the dark living room of her dark house. The kitchen door window shatters and the door slowly swings open. In the opening stands a silhouette of a figure, outlined by the lighting strikes behind it. Something ominous can be seen in the hands of this figure. The scene cuts quickly to a close up and when the next lighting strikes, we see an ax with fresh blood on its blade. The woman has plenty to fear.
One of the most debilitating emotions that can grip a person's heart and freeze a body in an instant is fear. Everyone of us fears something, be it spiders, rats, crowds, small spaces and even death. These fears don't last long, and we can easily get past them, with the exception of death. We'll all go there, eventually.
Yes, we all experience fear, but for many in the transgender community, fear becomes their constant companion. Society gave us a lot to fear and because of that, some trans people have raised fear to an art form. For many, fear has kept them from realizing their potential in life. It serves as their crutch, their excuse, their way to avoid growing as a person. "No. I can't do that. It scares me."
What are some of the fears the trans community has? Some fear starting transition, or even finishing it. Fear can make them stuck in transition. Others fear love, falling in love or even socializing with those they find attractive in search of love. Fear makes them become stuck in loneliness. Some fear intimacy. Others fear being read, or "clocked." Many fear being seen with other trans people because they think that once one in the crowd has been read, they all have. It has its basis in truth, but we should not let this fear keep us away from friends.
Our community has transsexuals who actually fear being around crossdressers and because of that, the transsexuals do nothing but bad-mouth and say hateful things about the crossdressers. Virginia Prince, who just passed away, became a prime target for some of these transsexuals. They fear the words that came from Virginia in 1959 as if they pertain to the world in 2009. I say this is fear, because there has never been a good explanation why her fifty-year-old words remain relevant in the 21st Century.
The wives of some crossdressers fear having their husbands hanging around transsexuals because "it" just might "rub off." Other crossdressers fear that transsexual activists will leave them behind in legislation and say hateful things about the transsexuals. These fears fill blogs and discussion groups like the faithful fill the mega churches. When a person sits in the middle of this "hierarchy war," they tend to fear that these opposing camps may just screw it up for all of us.
The Transgender Day of Remembrance will be ten years old this year. (Yes, it's the "Eleventh Annual" TDOR, but I'm sure you can figure this math problem out.) It vividly reminds us what we fear. When a city has a series of murders, like Memphis did recently and Atlanta did in the middle 1990s, fear grips our community. However, because of TDOR, it has become a fear that we work through together, with our prayers and our tears. We fight this fear daily.
The fear of discovery has become a big discussion in our community. Living a fully stealth life, or even a partially stealth one can cause a person to be stuck in fear. No good way to get around this issue can be found without a lot of anxiety and stressful moments. Others have been taken advantage of, or made fun of at work, church and social events, yet fear keeps them from speaking up or standing up for their rights. I hear, "It's okay. It'll work out." Let me tell you from experience, it never does. It gets worse.
The fear of discovery also comes into play when a trans person starts dating, or even flirting. When do you tell? If post-op, should you tell? If a trans women dates men, do you let him kiss you first, or do you wait? There are two women on the Remembering Our Dead list who decided to tell their new husbands on their honeymoon, so this fear can be real. Seeing the worst things that can happen to any of us has made me afraid, and I only date women.
It would be unfair of me to talk about the fears we have as a community without talking about mine. I do not fear death, because of my strong religious beliefs. However, I fear dying without someone special in my life by my side when I pass on. Yes, I'm stuck in loneliness. I have a fear of dying without finishing my work, or not seeing our community gain most of its rights. I fear losing my job, and losing everything I have worked so hard for. I fear letting people down, or doing something that lets the community down.
Through all of this, I cannot understand why some trans people fear me, the things I do, or how I live my life. They try to come across one way, but it boils down to nothing more than fear. Trapped animals growl, show their teeth and scream when faced with a supposed threat, all to cover up their fear. Humans are no different. I try to extend the olive branch to those who fear me because I have made many friends from those who may not have liked me in the past. I am never afraid to make a new friend, yet it is another fear that many in the trans community have.
Any fear can be conquered. Keep this in mind. If we had the will power and the strength to overcome all of the fears we knew would follow us when we started living our true lives, then we have the will power and strength to overcome other fears that we face in life. Society has made us afraid. We have the power to succeed and to squash the fears they put upon us. The answer to defeating fear lies in your heart. All you need to do is to let it out.