Monday, 22 November 2010

A pact with death

Yesterday, like goodness knows how many other people in the UK and around the world, I attended a Transgender Day of Remembrance ceremony at the Dorset Gardens Methodist Church in Brighton. It was like the one I went to last year, except that the murder of Brighton resident Andrea Waddell was then fresh in everyone's minds, and was indeed still subject to a police investigation with a prosecution pending, and Andrea's family were there. Our hearts went out to them; I was especially struck by the dignity, composure and fortitude of Mrs Waddell.

Since then, the man who murdered Andrea has been tried, found guity and sentenced. But you still wonder why he did it. What possible reason could he have had for snuffing out her life? If he had fallen out of love with her, or decided that transsexual women were not for him, why not just walk out of her life?

Well, you can say the same for any case of murder. Why not just leave it alone, walk on, go away, and forget about the person who has upset you, instead of giving in to violent urges that you know, if you think about it for an instant, must lead to arrest and a living death for yourself, from remorse or the corroding effects of imprisonment. Two lives uselessly ended.

But people do give in to emotion and impulses and driving forces like hatred and prejudice and zeal. And if the local conditions include a view that life is cheap, that transsexuals are less than human, that one's own life or honour or ego or comfort matter more, then it is so much easier to end another's existence. Having a gun or knife handy helps; being dehumanised yourself through social deprivation obviously helps; and in gang situations, pressure to appear tough and macho to your peers might justify anything at all. I just hope that none of us ever runs into the kind of person who simply doesn't care whether we live or die.

As the names of this year's crop of victims were read out, it was remarkable how often Brasil was the place where death struck. Mexico and Puerto Rico and Argentina were also prominent. In Europe, Italy and Turkey. But it would be no good planning your world tour on this information only. Brasil is clearly a place where a trans person might well need to take especial care; but then that country might just be more honest about admitting the existence of trans-related deaths. Many countries you'd think might also be hot spots for transphobic violence were not mentioned. China, for instance. Most of Africa and the middle east. That's suspicious. Are they suppressing the information?

Is there anywhere in the world where a trans person can freely travel, or live, without some danger? Probably nowhere. In every society there will be, somewhere, the psychopath you will eventually encounter. The person you can't explain to, who you can't reason with, who will, probably after dire torture, strangle or stab you or shoot you, or throw acid onto you, or set you on fire, or hack you to bits, and not consider the consequences. You have simply to become the focus of their attention. Then they will react. Casual death. Violent death. A fearful thought indeed. And it could happen anywhere. In country villages, as well as big cities. I'd even say it could happen in my own Sussex village, if I'm unlucky. It depends who I meet around the corner, and whether their self-control is OK that day. And who, except the handful of good neighbours who know me, could or would intervene and save me?

Do you feel the same?

Is keeping on the move the only safe way to exist? To become a faceless tourist, just another shopper, a person of unknown abode, or of no fixed abode even. Someone who lives a secret life with no ties, no relationships; just a pact with inevitable death.

1 comment:

  1. I would guess that in any area that does not show up on the list, it's probably a matter of not reporting that the victim was gender-variant.

    I do feel reasonably safe, and not only in Canada. That's because I don't exhibit any obvious signs of my history. Neither do you. Neither do many people who have transitioned. This is not to say that any of us could not experience violence in certain situations, only that it is less likely than for some.

    I would say that being obviously transsexual or gender-variant can be dangerous. So can being involved in a relationship with certain men and working in the sex trade. I am not blaming the victims. No one should be killed for who they are. But some people are more likely to encounter danger than others -- and it's not always under their control.

    Then again, there is always a certain amount of risk for women of experiencing violence from men, regardless of your circumstances.


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