This reflection was published in the newsletter of MCC North London on Thursday, 26th November 2009
On Saturday, it was the tenth annual Transgender Day of Remembrance. Every 20th November we gather as a community to remember the trans men and women who have died as victims of hate crime.
Hate crime takes a number of forms. In its most extreme, it leads to murder. The murder of Ian Baynham in Trafalgar Square, or David Morley on the Embankment, or the brutal and unnecessary deaths at the Admiral Duncan pub ten years ago. But there are other things that happen that are dismissed. The people who call us names in the street, who make assumptions about others’ gender identities and discriminate against them for it, even the people who were bullies at school. This is all hate crime, and it is all damaging.
When people die as a result of hate crime, it is not always because they are physically beaten by their persecutors. These mental beatings take their toll. It is estimated that 50% of young trans people attempt suicide at least once. In the LGBT community as a whole, rates of depression, self-harm and addiction are higher than in the general population. This is not a coincidence, nor is it because we are naturally disordered. It is because we face such discrimination on a daily basis.
And in that spirit, we should also remember the victims of bullying. It is anti-bullying week and we know that the victims of bullying today may be the suicide victims we are remembering tomorrow. A single act of bullying can be so devastating to a young person as to lead to all sorts of mental health and emotional problems later in life. Bullying is not normal, it is not a rite of passage, it is a devastating and life-changing thing to happen to someone. Sustained over a course of years it can destroy self-esteem and erode hope in someone’s life.
The bullies will also suffer, those who torment others doubtless suffer countless torments themselves. The young woman of 18 who has been charged with the murder of Ian Baynham will never get her life back. She will forever be marked as “different” and probably even as “bad”. Her life has been destroyed because she was never taught that it is wrong to persecute those who are different.
So this week, as well as praying for victims of transphobic hate crime and all forms of bullying, let us think about what we can do to make the world a better place. Report it when someone assaults you in the street, refuse to accept that “it’s just a part of life”. Do not let hate-speak go unchallenged, have the courage to correct people who make ignorant and hurtful remarks about what they cannot possibly understand. If you are in a position to do so, share your own story with a young person who will be given strength from it; maybe even write to your old school and tell them about your experiences. A few acts of harm can destroy a life, a few careful acts of kindness may rebuild someone.
We are all one body of Christ; it’s time to look after each other.