During the past week I noticed that a Facebook friend, Allison Woolbert, posted a link to a Kickstarter project called Transgender Violence Tracking Project (TVTP) that she had initiated. After reading the description of its goals, I realized I knew little to nothing about the transgender community and its struggles. So I messaged Allison to see if we could talk on the phone about the project and the issues facing transgender people in general. The other day we spent a couple of hours talking about her, her work, and the extraordinary problems transgender people face on a daily basis.
Before I dig too deeply into our conversation, I want to say a few words about Kickstarter and the TVTP. Kickstarter is a platform and a resource; they are not involved in the development of the projects themselves. Anyone can launch a project on Kickstarter as long as it meets their guidelines. Projects are allowed to run for a set amount of time and pledges are collected only if a project meets its stated monetary goal.
The Transgender Violence Tracking Project will only be up and running until 9:07 PM November 21st and has so far collected $1,221.00 of the $3,500 goal.
So what is the TVTP? Well, it turns out that very little specific information is collected or known about the violence that is clearly directed toward the transgender community. Although there is an annual Transgender Day of Remembrance to memorialize those who have been killed by acts of violence directed toward the community, (all those that even knew this occurred please raise your hand) the specifics of those deaths remain unknown. TVTP will not only keep track of those who have been killed, but “will be a portal where the transgender community and their allies will be able to track other acts of violence, and get a full record of those murdered, how they were murdered, arrests (if there are any), trial outcomes (if there are any trials) as well as those who die by their own hands because of the intolerable pressure our society inflicts upon transgender people.” (Allison Woolbert)
As those of you who visit the Kickstarter site can see, the data collection and its organization seems incredibly daunting, so one of my first questions was how a project of this breadth could be accomplished for $3,500. Allison explained that the project will be run gratis by her and volunteers, with the pledged money used to create the software and train those volunteers. One look at her full resume leaves no doubt that the project will achieve its goals.
As those of you who regularly read Just sayin’ know, the only things I promote are my books, my email list, and my Facebook Author’s Page. Not today. Today I’m urging each of you to visit the TVTP Kickstarter site, tell your friends, and donate as much as possible.
To put the violence directed toward this community in perspective, transgender people are about 1 to 1.5% of the world’s population but about 400 times more likely to be assaulted or murdered than the rest of the population. Add that to the US reality that people of color are 10 times more likely to be assaulted and murdered than anyone else, you can only imagine the odds of violence for a transgender person of color. TVTP will include a breakout of racial statistics.
It gets even worse. Transgender individuals aren’t “just” murdered. The nature of the killings are the most violent, horrific acts imaginable. Dismemberments, vicious multiple stabbings (15 times or more), immolation, are routine examples of the violence perpetrated on those who are transgender people. The tragedy is that these types of violence are not the exception but the rule when it comes to transgender murder. TVTP will work toward publicizing that which occurs in the community.
Let’s take a step back. Gender Dysphoria is a medical condition, not a sexual orientation. Although the general public often confuse cross-dressing with transexualism, (I intended to use transgender and transsexual interchangeably), they are very different. Cross-dressers might have different sexual orientations, but they do not experience living in the wrong body. From an early age on, transsexuals do—at the core of their very being. Cross-dressers (unless the cross-dressing is an attempt to reduce the internal pressure between the transgender’s mind/body dichotomy or the “transition” from one body to another) are not people who are at odds with their body. Transexual people are. As Allison said, “I looked in the mirror and didn’t understand what I saw. My skin was thick and didn’t seem like mine. The core of my mind simply couldn’t understand what I was seeing. It wasn’t me.”
So what do we have here? Certainly the general public understands chemo baldness. It’s a result of a medical condition. The general public understands people in wheelchairs. It too is a result of a medical condition. But to this day people continue to reject transsexual people before and after surgery. It’s just too damn threatening, though you’d think that cancer might be more so since it could actually happen to them. Yet transsexual individuals not only trigger fear, they trigger hatred. And, as a result, people who are transexual not only have to deal with the war within themselves, but the outside world’s hatred and violence.
Which is why this column has first focused on the Transgender Violence Tracking Project. The project a step in identifying, quantifying, publicizing, and hopefully changing a societal sickness that encourages hatred and dehumanization of people who are simply carrying the weight of a medical condition. The project will track all those who fall under the transgender umbrella: drag queens, butch women, effeminate men, and cross-dressers. This is an attempt to significantly reduce a horrible, ongoing oppression.
But the reality of transexualism is even harsher than what I’ve already touched upon. Today I focused on the TVTP. In the next post or two I’ll move on to my interview with Allison to put a human face on the community—from the hoops transexuals have to jump through to be accepted for surgery, how the LGB community deals with their T, to my friend Allison’s personal journey. But if anything I’ve written here strikes a chord, please pledge what you can and please talk to your friends about pledging as well. These are our brothers and sisters.
Sexual orientation is who you are attracted to and who you want to love. Gender identity is who you really are.” Allison Woolbert