Updated: Dec 13, 2019
By Jay Rivera
Three years ago, I sat down with my mother and her current husband, my brother nowhere to be seen. I invited her to dinner, offered to pay for everything, and then came out to her as being transgender. My mother, a full-blown Hispanic woman who learned to raise me by herself and tried her hardest to give me the best, got quiet and stared at me. Next thing I knew, I was being called a liar and told that I was just crying for attention. She left and next thing I knew, I was alone. For a time, I was in a very dark place and even considered suicide. Now, three years later, she tolerates my changes and my choices, but still refuses to call me anything but Julie. She says she accepts me, but I know she doesn't respect my gender or my identity because if she did, I wouldn't have to remind her that I’m her son now.
Now, some people would say that it’s the way that you are raized. But my grandmother, who was raized in a highly patriarchal society and was raized in strict catholicism, calls me her grandson. A woman who has lived for 65 years is willing to respect me even though she was raized to hate people like me. What people don't understand is that tolerance does not equal respect. Tolerance just means that you will not kill me, while respect means that I am a person to you.
According to an article named “Housing & Homelessness” published by the National Center for Transgender equality, “one in five transgender individuals have experienced homelessness at some point in their lives. Family rejection and discrimination and violence have contributed to a large number of transgender and other LGBQ-identified youth who are homeless in the United States–an estimated 20-40% of the more than 1.6 million homeless youth.”
In fact, for some of the young transgender people that decide to come out to their families, it gets so bad that suicide is an unfortunately common occurrence. In fact, a suicide report made by the UCLA states: “trans women (MTF), trans men (FTM), and female-assigned cross-dressers had the highest prevalence of lifetime suicide attempts (42%, 46%, and 44% respectively).” It is a staggering number of transgender individuals that do try to escape their abusive and toxic family atmosphere with suicide. In December of 2014, young Leelah Alcorn committed suicide by walking into traffic. She had come out to her parents when she was 14, and at 16 was denied hormones. Instead of being accepting her parents, she was sent to a conversion camp to reject being a woman and to instead align with the gender she was assigned at birth. All this lead to her blaming her parents for her depression, which ultimately led them to be publicly blamed for her death.
Right now, thankfully, there are a couple of associations and communities that are actively looking towards helping transgender youth of any age go against this devastating statistic of suicide. There are organizations that offer suicide prevention hotlines like the Trevor Project, which also is working towards abolishing conversion camps. They can be called at 1-866-488-7386, chatted with online via TrevorChat, and reached via text at 678678. There is also the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255), which is more generalized but nonetheless a good number to have. There is also the Trans Lifeline, which is a peer support service and can be reached at 877-565-8860. These are not all the resources available, but are most commonly used. Just remember that if you are a transgender person who is has thought or is currently thinking about suicide, you are not alone, and there are people out there who can help you. Furthermore, if you know someone who you have noticed has signs of being suicidal speak up, don't wait because tomorrow could be too late.