Years ago, “transgender” is something I would have made fun of, particularly coming from a conservative perspective.
You’re gay? Understood. Straight? Obviously understood.
But transgender? What’s that? You’re either a man who likes the opposite or same sex, or you’re a woman who likes the opposite or the same sex. Those are the categories. That’s it.
But is that really it? Can someone’s gender be something different to them internally than what has been presented to the world?
When Bruce Jenner declared himself Caitlyn on the cover of Vanity Fair, many mocked. Jenner said she was speaking for a segment of society that has long been misunderstood.
Does she have a point? Are there many Caitlyn Jenners out there? Though larger acceptance appears to be on the rise, transgenderism is still hard for many people to understand.
Regardless, understand this.
Vocativ reported in March, that “4.6 percent of the overall U.S. population has self-reported a suicide attempt, with that number climbing to between 10 and 20 percent for lesbian, gay or bisexual respondents.”
Vocativ continued, “By comparison, 41 percent of trans or gender non-conforming people surveyed have attempted suicide.”
41 percent. That’s nine times the national average.
These numbers tell us something. Knowing that 4.6 percent of Americans have attempted suicide, most of us would like to bring that number down. We seek to understand why this was happening in order to alleviate the problem.
Today, we can more easily understand why 10 or 20 percent of gay and bisexual Americans might have attempted suicide. As tolerance increases on this front, we now recognize that gay men and women have faced unique hardships in our society. People of good conscience seek to reduce that number.
As a society, wouldn’t we also want to reduce suicide attempts among those who identify as transgender? Isn’t the first step in doing so trying to understand their condition?
This study surveyed 6,456 self-identified transgender Americans. 41 percent would be 2,647 people.
Does anyone really believe, particularly those eager to dismiss transgenderism, that 2,647 Americans claimed to try to take their own lives simply to further an agenda? Would these transgender people say, or say they attempted, something so drastic simply to undermine societal norms, as their critics accuse?
We can also be sure the sample size from this survey represents a far larger number. The number cited most often is 700,000 Americans who identify as being transgender, though some consider this to be a conservative estimate.
Which brings us to the white woman who spent years pretending to be black, Rachel Dolezal. Some say that if Dolezal claims she’s black, how is that any different than Bruce Jenner claiming he’s a woman?
What those who make this argument are really saying is this: The many Americans who identify as transgender are not legitimate. She’s ridiculous, so they’re ridiculous. She’s a fraud, therefore they’re frauds. She’s crazy and they’re crazy.
Call me crazy, but I don’t think so many people would claim to have attempted suicide merely to make a political statement.
There are not thousands of white Americans, even those identify with black culture, claiming to actually be black. There are not thousands of black people pretending to actually be white. There are not thousands in any other racial category pretending to actually be another race—much less having astronomical suicide attempt rates that reflect their group’s struggle.
Rachel Dolezal does not represent any sort of common condition. She is making headlines in part because her story is without precedent. We would actually be surprised if there were one or two more individuals who pulled off the same stunt with the same success.
Dolezal claims she is black. But being “black” can mean something in the United States that it doesn’t mean in other parts of the world. Being black can mean different things depending on what region of this country you’re in. The same is true of being white, Hispanic, Asian or any other race.
But being male or female is something far more universal. Most of us know which category we belong to. Others know too, but are attracted to the same sex.
And others feel like they’ve been miscategorized. Their plight is nothing new. The only difference now is that they’re speaking out with a louder voice. They should be heard, and hopefully, better understood.
Rachel Dolezal doesn’t change this. Using her to demean transgender Americans shouldn’t change this either.