Bullying’s been in the news rather frequently recently, with the nine suicides of people who are clearly presented as cis gay men, and how the bullying plus the consequent suicides are a real problem, but there has been an elephant in the room while this conversation has gone on:
That is, we rarely hear about trans teens who are bullied and attempt or commit suicide. There have been a few, but there hasn’t been much talk about it. The findings from the National Transgender Discrimination Survey were just released, with some rather harrowing numbers:
“From our experience working with transgender people, we had prepared ourselves for high rates of suicide attempts, but we didn’t expect anything like this,” says Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. “Our study participants reported attempting suicide at a rate more than 25 times the national average.” Forty-one percent of all respondents reported that they had attempted suicide, compared with a national estimated rate of 1.6 percent.
Other findings include:
- Thirty-five percent of the participants who had been bullied, harassed, assaulted or expelled because of their gender identity or expression while in school said that they used drugs or alcohol to cope with the effects of discrimination, compared to 21 percent of those who had not had similar experiences in school.
- Twenty-five percent reported that they were currently or formerly homeless, compared to 14 percent of those who did not report mistreatment in schools.
- Those who reported they had to “leave school because the harassment was so bad,” had an HIV infection rate of more than 5 percent, which is more than eight times the HIV infection rate for the general U.S. population.
This is part of the reason I am not entirely thrilled with the “It Gets Better” campaign – that for a lot of us, it simply does not. While many of us have the autonomy to begin transition, this often happens while forced into survival sex work, homelessness, and HIV, among other difficulties. Trans people have at least twice the unemployment rate of the general population. Other factors such as race and disability also factor into this, meaning that unemployment is much more likely for many. More data in the PDF, including breakdowns in population by race (but unfortunately not disability).
I don’t mean to introduce these statistics to say anyone has it harder, but rather to question why with all the talk about bullying and getting better, why what trans people specifically face is not discussed at all. I mean 41% of respondents reported attempting suicide? As compared to the 1.6% of the general population? I remember when people questioned the idea that trans people really had a 50% rate of attempted suicide, but it looks like that is confirmed. This is, honestly, reprehensible that this is constantly kept invisible, in the background. And it’s not as if trans people are a such a small minority, either. Educated guesswork puts us at .2-.4% of the population, with numbers supported in multiple countries, not even counting non-transitioning trans people that were neglected by Lynn Conway’s paper. In the US that means out of 310,430,000 people (per Wikipedia). 620,000 – 1,240,000 trans people. Relatively small compared to the rest of the population, but still significant. Not that population size should reflect anyone’s worthiness to not be bullied, harassed, denied employment, denied housing, and so on.
Suzan Cooke wrote about bullying as well today. I won’t quote the whole post but you really should read it. What she’s writing is not unusual. It is not out of the ordinary. It is what many trans people have had to deal with during our lives. And what she says about bullies is far more accurate than aphorisms about how they’re insecure or afraid. Studies have shown that bullies tend to be self-confident and popular.
Bullies are bullies because they reflect the patriarchal paradigm.
Bullies are considered tough. Because being tough means being able to dish out pain, hurt and humiliation without feeling guilt.
Being able to take pain, hurt and humiliation without being destroyed by it is called celebrating one’s victimization. Even though surviving such abuse without committing suicide or killing one’s tormentor takes great strength.
Destroying the lives of others is rewarded while having one’s life destroyed by bullying is punished further by people who treat the victims of bullying as weak and cowardly, unworthy of decent opportunities in life.
Damages are rarely awarded to people whose childhoods were destroyed by bullies. Or to children who were deprived of their right to an education and the right to experience school as a safe place in which to grow and learn.
Bullies bully because bullying is the path to success. It is the path to alpha status whether in a wolf pack or in the corporate structure.
Refusal to join the bullies places one with the victims. Joining the bullies gains multiple rewards. That is the mentality of Tea Baggers and lynch mobs alike.
Read the whole post.