Transgender Awareness Week started yesterday, and it will culminate with the International Transgender Day of Remembrance, which officially takes place on November 20, although some organizations will hold memorials on different dates this week.
Of course, there are two sides to Transgender Awareness Week. I certainly think it’s a good thing, but I go back and forth between wishing that everyone was already aware and that we didn’t have to set aside a specific time for that awareness, and thinking that, even if everyone was already aware, I would not want to lose the feeling of community and oneness that comes with a specific week designated for my people.
The fact that the week is necessary in order to draw attention to the discrimination, hatred, and violence that continues against us is unfortunate. The fact that the week ends with memorial services across the country for those who have died just for living their life is tragic. But there are many places throughout the country that are also celebrating the week by having speakers, performances, book signings, concerts, and other events to bring the community and allies together and to have some fun in the middle of the tragedy that befalls our community consistently.
Although I am not an assimilationist, I certainly wish that we didn’t have to continue to fight, to educate, to prove our value and our worth — that we were considered not only equal citizens but no big deal. On the other hand, I don’t ever want to lose the specialness of our community and the importance of who we are, where we’ve come from, and where we’re going.
As with Black History Month, Native American Heritage Month, and LGBT History Month (which is primarily LGB History Month), I often wish that special periods of time did not have to be set aside and designated as such. Black history, Native American history, and LGBT history ought to simply be history — the history that we all learn in school and know about, and that everyone, regardless of who they are, thinks of as part of their own history. (And truly, Native American history is the history of this country — or at least it was supposed to be.)
But the inherent problem with that is that our “melting pot” tends to melt one way only, and various cultures, events, and lives get absorbed by the mainstream and disappear. The “melting pot” that I learned about in school (I don’t even know if they use that term anymore — that was a long time ago) pretended to be universal, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-everything, but it was really just an assimilationist model that invited everyone to conform to white, straight, mainstream ideals — or insisted that they did.
So while a part of me looks forward to the day when we won’t need a Transgender Awareness Week — when everyone will know who we are and won’t care, when we will no longer have to teach the lessons and fight the fight — another part of me has no intention of melting into any pot. And, as I have said before, separate but equal is not okay — different but equal is.
I don’t mind being different. I hope that we will never lose the sense of who we are as a community. I hope that we will never forget that, in another time and in another place, we would be special — or at least fully embraced. And as long as we’re not now, we might as well do a little celebrating before Friday’s Day of Remembrance brings the sobering message of where we are now back home.