November is Transgender Awareness Month across the United States. It is a time to celebrate the diversity of gender many Americans and especially many New Yorkers share.
We often confuse a person's sex with their gender. A person's sex is determined by their physical anatomy, how we are put together physically. Gender, on the other hand, is in our minds: how we see and think of ourselves, whom we feel and believe we are deep within ourselves, how we express who we are to other people around us.
Transgender Day of Remembrance occurs annually on Nov. 20. It is a day to memorialize those who have been killed as a result of transphobia, or the hatred or fear of transgender and gender-non-conforming people, and acts to bring attention to the continued violence endured by the transgender community.
In our culture, we quantify sex and gender as a binary of possibilities - male or female, with little room for variation in between. Transgender people transcend or cross over these traditional gender lines to live our lives outside of society's norms. As transgender, we view life not in a strict male/female binary concept but rather a much fuller and richer continuum of possibilities across a variety of gender-related spectrums.
Often misunderstood, transgender is an umbrella term used to describe a larger group of people to include cross-dressers, gender-non-conforming individuals and people who identify as transsexual. Many or most transsexual people may be in various stages of changing their physical bodies in order to bring their minds, bodies and spirits into one unified, whole, happy person. Some transsexual individuals may not have the desire or finances to change their physical bodies but still need to live on a full-time, permanent basis in the identity opposite from their birth sex.
Transgender people are often grouped into the larger lesbian, gay, bisexual community. Transgender, the "T" component of LGBT, refers to how we identify, express ourselves and desire to be accepted as, on a daily basis. Many people in society today view being LGBT as a "choice." I can assure you it is not a "choice" to be forced to hide ourselves from those we love, live or work with for fear of rejection, harassment, loss of employment, loss of access to medical or behavioral health care services, denial of social services, denial of public accommodations, housing, physical or verbal assaults or the very real possibility of being murdered. These are not "choices" we make. LGBT individuals are born this way; this is how we were created from birth. Then we develop and grow into the persons we are today. We neither can nor do desire to be anything less than the persons we are. We are not looking to "be changed," "be fixed" or forced into a lifestyle deemed socially acceptable.
Who are LGBT people? PEOPLE! We are your brothers, sisters, parents, spouses, sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, neighbors, retail clerks, lawyers, health care professionals, business professionals and employees. We may be the person sitting across the desk from you or just down the hall. We live full, happy, productive lives. We contribute our skills and talents in our communities and to society in general. We are homeowners, pay our taxes and mortgages; we vote in elections.
Our great nation was founded on the principles of life, liberty, freedom and justice for all; yet even today we fail to live up to these lofty principles we so proudly profess. We routinely sacrifice our brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, parents and family members in wars around the world to defend these principles, yet denying these protections to our very own citizens. I understand many in society may not like or perhaps agree with our lifestyle, but is that not why our veterans fight, many losing their lives, in order to protect our basic freedoms?
The LGB community and especially now the transgender community are not looking for "more" or "special" rights; we are only looking for EQUAL rights already extended to other members of our society.
Kelly Metzgar lives in Saranac Lake.