Things are moving rather quickly these days. The accelerationists have gotten their way, and shit is spiraling out of control. We are facing a fundamental reordering of our society by fiat, the type of caste warfare that would be harped on by the media were they not complicit in it, and were their side not winning.


Side note: the media institutions are so stupid to think that they could ever be on Trump’s side. He wants only hagiography, or at worst stenography. Any media that refuses to submit fully to that imperative will find itself driven into poverty, not having the power to fight back by the time they work up the courage or awareness to do so.


I find it difficult to write my column, given this context. Initially I had intended to highlight two different threads: the relationship between Bannon joining the National Security Council and the subsequent assassination of an 8-year-old American citizen, and the ways in which Trump’s unprecedented decision to file the paperwork to be a candidate for the 2020 presidential election is a brilliantly vile move with a potentially fatal flaw. But the rush of their assault means that any individual thread is likely to get outclassed (and soon) by a worse attack. Like the one I woke up to this Wednesday morning.


On Tuesday, the much-feared anti-LGBTQ executive order was leaked, and then walked back by Trump. It was relatively milquetoast, a repeal of Obama’s anti-discrimination order for federal contractors, which would have hurt people but was basically the least dangerous thing they could do. The general thinking was that he was trying to avoid pissing off the white gays, who have money, while he could use them as cover for the (truly atrocious) Muslim ban. Basically, by offering an olive branch (if you can call “I’ve decided not to hurt you, yet” an olive branch), Trump seemed to be attempting to splinter the coalition.


Wednesday morning, though, I woke up and checked my facebook to find several loved ones freaking out at the prospect of a new executive order that was winding through the rumor mills: a federal ban (of some sort) criminalizing changing gender markers on your documentation. This stunned me. It is such a direct attack on transgender identity, and I thought we were at least safe from that degree of targeted hatred. The rumor mill seems to disagree (and for all I know, by the time this posts we’ll have confirmation), but the fact that it’s seen as being possible, even likely, points to a couple of unpleasant, and thoroughly depressing, truths.


First off, the bastards trying to drive us to suicide assume that it’s possible to isolate trans folk from anti-LGBTQ initiatives generally, and they’re probably correct. If the first anti-LGBTQ act by this government is an assault narrowly tailored to only fuck over trans people, they think that they can break us off from the broader coalition, using Milo’s “Drop the T” momentum to keep our gay brethren from stepping up. My cynicism suggests this will be an effective strategy, since of all the groups targeted trans folk may be the least numerous (there are roughly 3 million refugees to 1.4 million trans people). All it takes is a backlash, say in response to a show airing on ABC that seems to center a transgender character (Doubt, with Laverne Cox), and they can isolate us and have the power to erase 80 years of progress—something against which we have no reliable defense.


Secondly, it is that specific step which stabs me to the core, because I long thought it would be one of the two points on their five point plan that would be impossible for them to achieve. For those unfamiliar, the Family Research Council, i.e. a Southern Poverty Law Center-branded hate group with current representation in the government via Mike Pence, came out with a five point plan to drive trans people back into the shadows. Those points are:


  1. States and the federal government should not allow legal gender marker changes.
  2. Transgender people should not have any legal protections against discrimination, nor should anyone be forced to respect their identity.
  3. Transgender people should not be legally allowed to use facilities in accordance with their gender identity.
  4. Medical coverage related to transition should not be provided by the government, or any other entity.
  5. Transgender people should not be allowed to serve in the military.


Now, I am fairly certain we are going to lose two and five. For some reason, being respectful of our identities seems to be a major point of rage for these hatemongers, and they are champing at the bit for state backing for their desire to just fuck us over whenever they see one of us. So I never imagined that anti-discrimination protections would survive on either the state or federal levels. And trans folk in the military, while a serious issue, is something totally within the control of the executive branch; I had no illusions that such protections would be lost upon Trump’s ascendancy.


I was even somewhat braced to lose point three, given the rise of these anti-trans bills in public accommodations; when I came out in the wilds of 2002, an inability to use public facilities was so pervasive that this is the type of thing we had to make to advocate for our rights: Toilet Training, by Dean Spade © 2003. We have survived those times before, and it seemed probable that we’d have our movement kicked that far back again.


But I thought planks one and four to be utterly beyond the pale. I could not imagine the federal government criminalizing gender marker change. It’s been a state level issue for as long as I can remember, and while some states are fucking awful about it I figured we’d be safe on the federal level. Whether or not they end up pushing this executive order, Wednesday morning was a wakeup call for me. They can do this if they feel like it, and if they do it’s going to be hard for people to care.


After all, didn’t you hear? Gender options on Tindr are why Dems lost the election. Or something. Point is, we’re not respectable, and cisnormative people tend to find us to be a distraction, or worse.


And that means that plank four is potentially a live issue. That seemed utterly impossible to me before now. Again, I was anticipating the worst case scenario to be a license to discriminate against us; given the “criminalization” language flowing through the rumor mill, I realize the real danger is far worse. They could criminalize doctors giving us trans healthcare. They could make it illegal for us to access the medicines and surgeries which many of us need to come to terms with our atypical bodies.


I have a trans medical thing scheduled for March, and for all I know it could be illegal by the time I get there. That would devastate me.


The lack of certainty, both in terms of when the other jackboot will drop and in terms of whether people will stand for us when it does … it’s been hard on me, on my community, on my loved ones. It’s an unpleasant place to be living, since the election. Things look like they’re headed to about 75% of the worst case scenario. We probably won’t go full concentration camps—which is something I shouldn’t even be questioning, yet here we are—but they’re crafting a society in which you need a job to live, and they want to make it impossible for us to work. They’re trying to eliminate passing, eliminate housing, and keep anyone from providing us with the social services or support we need to live and thrive. This is already an issue for the trans community without the federal government attacking us; this additional pressure means lives lost to medical neglect and suicide, even perhaps my own.


I don’t mean to be overly dramatic with that last statement, but it’s true. I am no more immune from the suicidal ideation than my brethren. Discussing this openly is a risk, showing vulnerability around this issue tends to lead to the troll army endeavoring to make the prophecy true, but it needs to happen. Since I’ve been a child I internalized the lesson that I was wrong, and the world hated me. Between that and the abuse I’ve thought about (and occasionally attempted) killing myself since my early teenage years. It doesn’t go away, not for me at least. It’s a constant companion, kept at bay by a combination of refusing to give the bastards the succor of doing their work for them and a knowledge that me killing myself would devastate those who care about me.


And no matter how small that circle may feel in the midst of ideation, it’s always more people than you or I would think.


But my point in sharing this is that I probably come off, to the outside, as being a tough person. I have certainly endured a lot of shit I would not wish on my worst enemy, a kindness not shared by those who despise me for a phenotyping mishap at birth. I have been involved in trans communities for fifteen years, I have a long term partner, a stable job, an outlet for my expressions … and even I am not free of the burden of suicidal thoughts. If you find yourself struggling with them, know you are not alone. Know that you are loved. Know that you are important. And not just in theory; as long as we live, and live as openly as it is safe to do, we can push our webs of cis families and acquaintances into fighting these policies. We can provide positive modeling to the kids (no matter their age) struggling with coming to terms with who and what we are. We can provide support, provide bodies, help create alliances with other organizations.


As Audre Lorde said, “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.” We can help others so long as we stick around, but we lose all our agency when we’re dead.


It has been hard to maintain an aura of hope for the future when I can’t even be sure I’m going to live to see it, but that’s why they’re doing this. Because even the right wing knows that concentration camps are probably a bridge too far, so they’re trying to weaponize our self-hatred, trying to radicalize violent supporters against us, trying to starve us out of society. They are attacking us, and I don’t have faith that when push comes to shove that cis allies will show up. It’s going to take effort and energy to push the cis folk to back us, and you need to be here to do that.


If you’re cis, prove me wrong, show up without us trans folks having to spend precious energy mobilizing you. If you’re trans, don’t give those fuckers the satisfaction of doing their dirty work for them. Violence against yourself is still violence, still wrong. It’s easy to say, and impossible to internalize fully, so stay wary. Have a plan for when it gets dark out there.


There is hope, but it lies in the mirror. Be a person you’d proud to be. And know that there’s help if you need it.


I love you all. Stay safe out there.
Jess Stirba is only medium paranoid.

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