On Sunday afternoon, I'm going to a memorial service. The memorial service is for a friend, a teacher who wanted the best for her students, an amazing person. She was brave and courageous and beautiful. She was transgender. My friend knew some very hateful people for over 10 years who made her daily life miserable, and she ultimately took her life. No one was able to do anything to stop the hateful suffering she endured. There is a lack of understanding and acceptance in the United States for transgender people. There aren't strong legal protections in place and many lack understanding. Making jokes or bigoted remarks about transgender people is often accepted.
Young transgender people are in the news every day because they are harassed and discriminated against and often end up taking their own lives or being hurt, or even murdered.
Anyone can do a quick search to find the horrifying statistics about transgender youth:
- 33 percent of transgender youth have attempted suicide
- 55 percent of transgender youth report being physically attacked
- 74 percent of transgender youth reported being sexually harassed at school,
- 90 percent of transgender youth reported feeling unsafe at school because of their gender expression
- 78 percent reported having been verbally harassed
- 48 percent reported having been victims of assault, including assault with a weapon, sexual assault or rape
And for adults it often gets worse.
It is not Caitlyn's responsibility to educate misguided people about transgender people. She didn't choose to be transgender. She did choose, however, to tell her story knowing that she will likely be the target of hate. Even so, she is courageously engaging people who don't understand and unintentionally say hurtful things. Caitlyn Jenner is creating awareness by giving another voice to transgender people. It takes courage and bravery to talk even though she knows that she will likely be ridiculed and worse. There have been many before her and there will be many more, but right now Caitlyn Jenner is using her celebrity to do make a difference.
As I read about people criticizing social media for calling Caitlyn Jenner a hero, I think of my friend and all she went through. A hero is someone who puts other lives before their own. A hero can come in many forms. Caitlyn is doing a small part to change stereotypes and bigotry against transgender people, after all, you're reading this, aren't you? I promise you, Caitlyn's story is saving lives. Caitlyn Jenner is a hero.