Jeff Ruane

Protect Trans Youth

A recent caller on The Majority Report really spoke to me, and I haven't been able to stop thinking about his story since. He called to talk about his friend, Ailis Kennedy, a Denver-based comedian whose life was cut short. Ailis was a trans woman who was dehumanized to the point of taking her own life. His story is about 5 minutes long, although Sam and Emma's discussion afterward is also important.

Her story is heartbreaking. The dehumanizing harassment was damn near constant between malicious reactionaries and judgmental religious fundamentalists. She mentioned something really interesting in the Facebook post that the caller read:

I never asked to have this conversation. They're coming up to me and initiating it. When I do a post like this and talk back, I'm the one instigating. I'm defending my existence every day from random people. People get defensive if they have to be defensive the majority of the time.

I will admit I've thought to myself before "why don't trans people just take it easy sometimes?" My wife took a transgender studies class in college, and at some point, someone got upset about Target not selling the style of clothes they wanted to wear. I definitely laughed at my wife's telling of the story. "Jeez, how ridiculous. Target doesn't owe you anything."

But you know what? None of that matters. Whether complaining about Target's clothing selection is ridiculous or not, it doesn't matter. Ailis's story made me realize that standing up for trans folks (and other marginalized and demonized groups) is all that matters. If you think "birthing person" is silly, keep your mouth shut. Trans folks are dying, and for what? Because powerful people gain power by "othering" already marginalized people, and narrow-minded people lacking any semblance of empathy are all-to-happy to go along for the ride? Because fundamentalists need to cherry-pick some bible quotes? Because of women's sports? Because people feel self-conscious saying "ze"? Even if some of these things are important, not contributing to the constant toxicity spewed at trans folks is infinitely more important at this moment in our history.

There are a million ways to not be on the side of trans folks, whether it's malicious or not. It's time to put all that behind us and focus on advocating for the marginalized. As the caller said:

I'm not like a woke SJW, I just miss my friend, and I'm never going to see her again.

The caller mentioned Ailis's obituary in Westword, and they really do right by her. It's worth a read. And to all my trans friends out there: you're loved, and you matter, and I'm going to do my best to make sure you never forget that.

#equality #mental health #personal #writing