The month of November celebrates Transgender Awareness Month and the month of December celebrates Youth Transgender Awareness Month. According to a 2016 Williams Institute study, 1.4 million adults in the United States identify as Transgender. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, GLSEN has found that 75% of transgender youth feel unsafe at school, and those who are able to persevere had significantly lower GPAs. Transgender youth were also more likely to miss school out of concern for their safety, and were less likely to plan on continuing their education. For the month of November and December, Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare would like to suggest the opportunity to learn more about Trans communities and the important issues that they face.
Transitioning In The Public Eye & Remembering Those Lost
One of Cascadia’s trans identified staff, Helix Holman, says that he has been fortunate to have had a good experience during his transition. He knows that there are many others who are not as fortunate but credits his supportive group of friends and credits the city of Portland for being a much better place to transition than other places in our county.
Although he has not experienced gender hate crimes, he says he knows some people that have. “Soon after the election, one of my friends who identifies as genderqueer was harassed and threatened with a weapon,” said Holman. Luckily, a bystander saw what was happening and stepped in to help.
“Thankfully they were not physically hurt but I can only imagine the trauma that they are experiencing because of that event. I hope that no one ever has to experience something like this, but hope that if anyone were to see something like that happening, that they would ask themselves “what if that was happening to my loved one or myself” and decide to step in and help just like that bystander did for my friend,” he said.
In 2014, of the 5,462 FBI cases of classified single-bias hate crimes, more than 1,000 cases were because of the victim’s sexual orientation or perceived orientation.
An important day during Transgender Awareness Month is November 20th, Transgender Day of Remembrance. It is a day that many solemnly tribute to transgender people who have lost their loved ones to violence. There are a few organized events happening around Portland that will take the time to remember those lives that were lost. In 2016 alone, more than 20 people in the United States that identified as transgender have been killed due to hate crimes.
Cascadia’s Triangle Project
At Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare’s Triangle Project offers a safe environment for LGBTQ individuals. The Triangle Project is an evolving program which aims to provide services to the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Questioning) Family. The program provides a safe environment for adults who identify as part of the Rainbow Community and who want to explore recovery from substance abuse and/or mental health related issues.
There are groups such as the Triangle Group that provides a safe environment for members of the LGBTQ communities seeking to address substance use and mental health challenges. There is also the Gender Identity: A group for trans-identified, gender queer and gender non-conforming individuals to explore their identity in a safe and knowledgeable environment.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and UCLA’s Williams Institute, 41% of those who identifying as “transgender” or gender nonconforming have attempted suicide. While the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) reports that “LGBTQ individuals are almost 3 times more likely than others to experience a mental health condition such as major depression or generalized anxiety disorder.”
Knowing how it feels to transition, yet also knowing he cannot speak for everyone, Holman says that it is important for people of the trans community to talk about their mental health and says that it is important to create a safe personal environment.
“I know those emotional experiences exist,” he added. “If you are feeling a certain way and want to talk to someone, know that there are resources and that there are people out there that care…you are not alone.”
Why We Should Take The Time To Learn
Holman says that people should take these transgender awareness months as an opportunity to learn about the transgender community and an opportunity create a community on a foundation of understanding.
“People should not assume what a person’s pronouns are just because of their outward appearance,” said Holman, “Basic etiquette helps give a people a broader perspective…some people don’t like something because they’re scared about what they don’t know or understand. We can’t always change what people think but what we can do is help educate them.”
Believing that knowledge is power, Holman says that the transgender community can’t create change on their own, and that they need allies to support, educate and fight alongside with them.
“It gives me hope that we can continue to move forward. Sure, things aren’t ideal but we have come a long way and we couldn’t do it with without our allies of different backgrounds,” said Holman, “Allies of the transgender community are examples of what can be accomplished when we look past our differences and use our privileges as advantages in order to make a meaningful impact and positive change within society.
“If we all had a little more compassion, I believe that our world would be more peaceful…it’s important for us to help build others up…no matter our observable differences or cultural differences..in the end, we are all human.”