Sam Taub. Leelah Alcorn. Blake Brockington. Kyler Prescott. You’ve probably never heard their names, but their stories are all too familiar in this day and age: All of these young people took their lives because of the hate they received as transgender individuals.
Transgender youth have one of the highest suicide rates of any demographic in the country. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality and the LGBTQ Task Force, 41 percent of trans people attempt suicide in their lifetime, which is nearly 10 times the national average for the general public.
This is a group of people that a majority of the country doesn’t understand or refuses to even acknowledge — and that kind of ignorance, as we’ve witnessed, has very real consequences.
So when some people start pitting the transgender role models we do have — the brave men and women who put themselves at risk for the sake of a better world — against one another, that makes me angry.
I’m angry because I can count the number of transgender celebrities in the public eye on one hand.
I’m angry because, in a world so dominated with hateful rhetoric, those trying to make a difference shouldn’t have to face attacks practically every day.
I’m angry because my sister, who came out as transgender to her own family, visibly shaking, terrified and almost in tears from fear, shouldn’t have to live in a world where people don’t understand her, or worse, want to harm her.
And people do want to hurt her. Trans women, especially trans women of color, are the group most targeted for murder among LGBT individuals, accounting for 72 percent of all LGBT homicide victims, according to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence.
Trans women are also more likely to experience police violence, intimidation, sexual assault, discrimination, harassment and threats.
Chelsea Manning and Caitlyn Jenner are some of the most visible and recognized transgender women in the world right now.
You can argue that one or the other is the “spokesperson” for the transgender movement, but it’s a conversation that shouldn’t even be happening in the first place.
As a transgender ally and supporter, I don’t think this is what we should be shedding a light on. I don’t care who the face of the movement is; I just care that someone, anyone, is helping to spread a message of love and acceptance for those struggling just to make it through the day.
You can say what you want about Caitlyn Jenner. You can call her entitled or stupid or fame-obsessed.
But you cannot tell me that she hasn’t faced the same battle that the million other transgender individuals in our country have fought. Every single one of them, celebrity of not, has grappled with a fear of rejection, confusion or feelings of inadequacy and loneliness. And now she’s trying to do something about it.
She has put herself in the public eye and become a voice for trans kids who might otherwise have never had their voices heard.
If nothing else, she has started a conversation that our country desperately needs to have. Chelsea Manning and Caitlyn Jenner are both important figures in the transgender community.
Instead of attacking either of these women personally, why don’t we turn against those who are leading the charge to promote ignorance and hate?
Why don’t we fight to give my sister the life she deserves?
Deanna Ferrante is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter @deannaferrante or email her at DeannaF@centralfloridafuture.com.