Creating Healing Out of Invisible Violence

Can We Fix Society?

Quote: My death needs to mean something. My death needs to be counted in the number of transgender people who commit suicide this year,” she wrote. “I want someone to look at that number and say ‘that’s f—ed up’ and fix it. Fix society. Please. — Leelah Alcorn from her suicide note.1

Leelah set a tall order when she asked that society be fixed. How can we heal as a society? How can transgender people heal in the face of the onslaught of all the stories were hear day in and day out through social media and our friends? How can we heal in the face of a full frontal assault of thoughtless and unknowing comments, body language, transphobia and cissexism, and society’s erasure of our issues as important? The healing has got to come in small measures. There’s not one of us that can fix society all on our own. We have to depend on our friends, family and our allies for help.

What Can We Do?

  • Raise Awareness
  • Build Ally Relationships
  • Use Creative Coping Mechanisms
  • Share Your Art on Your Website
  • Submit Your Art to Zines, Galleries, & Show Locally
  • Share Your Website with The Invisible Violence Project

Our Inspiration

Dylan Scholinski at Sent(a)mental Studios did it first with his various art therapy projects, such as the Youth Haven project and more. His public speaking efforts have been raising awareness since the 1990s, and his art therapy projects precede ours. We’d love to be as successful in raising awareness on invisible violence and secondary trauma in transgender people as he has in raising awareness of transgender youth suicide and anti-reparative therapies. We take inspiration from Dylan and his work.

What are Creative Coping Mechanisms?

You do not need to be limited by artistic medium in how to creatively deal with the invisible violence in your life. If you’ve ever been affected by a TDOR event, have been affected by current events to the point where you could not go out of the house, then creative coping mechanisms might help you to process your feelings. You do not have to be limited to the media below, but here are some possible ideas. Think about something that bothered you, and create to get out your feelings:
  • Write a song and perform it on youtube, or for your friends.
  • Draw something
  • Paint something
  • Write a blog
  • Write a short story
  • Dance your own dance, on YouTube or not
  • Write a poem
  • etc.
Let us know you’ve been creative, what you’ve done, and we’ll link to your work. Your creative work should speak to triumph over adversity, acceptance in the face of alienation, healing in spite of hurt, visibility in the face of erasure, and most of all, how you overcame some sort of invisible violence like alienation, ostracizing, second hand trauma, hate speech, or many more.
Thanks for your participation, and I really look forward to seeing how creative you can be!

Behind HB2: The Real Reason Behind the Anti-Transgender Bathroom Bills

What is the Real Reason Behind the Anti-Transgender Bathroom Bills

See this informative video about trans bathroom issues:
THIS IS ME: From the Bathroom (http://wifey.tv/video/this-is-me-from-the-bathroom/) from trans entertainer-activists Rocco Kayiatos and Mariana Mar
What I have to say is not neutral, or uncontroversial. However, I’d like to present a call to action to promote tolerance towards transgender people, and LGBTQI people in general. And I’m going to say some really frank things at the risk of possibly alienating those with more traditional viewpoints on religion. However, when dignity of the human spirit as a transgender person comes up against religious prohibitions against non traditional conceptions of gender, then in my opinion, dignity wins out.
The act of limiting a transgender person to a bathroom which pertains to his/her/their/zir birth certificate has a consequence of causing trauma to those who will refuse to go in public, for fear of violence, legal implications or simply shame induced by a culture that demonizes transgender people for wanting to use the bathroom corresponding to their gender expression. Most of the time people don’t even know they are sharing a restroom with a transgender person.
When you look at this video, what are your reactions? Have you ever been in a position where you felt unsafe to go into the restroom and had to hold it for an extended period of time? What if someone told you that you could get arrested if you went in the restroom? What if someone told you that you might get beat up for being different because you went in the restroom? Would you be angry that your basic rights were being denied to use the restroom?
Now, do you think that the dilemma is that transgender people are being denied access to a function of daily human life which is very basic to human dignity and respect? Do you see that denying bathroom privileges to any human being is degrading? Furthermore, do you see that this inciting of hate over supposed perverts in the bathroom is delusional? If not, let me explain.

What is Behind the Religious Objections?

Fear and misunderstanding is what I see from my vantage point as a former charismatic Christian who has converted to Unitarian Universalism. Conflating or confusing sex and gender minority identities with freaks, sexual predators and criminals has long been a tactic of the religious right to promote fear and taboo. I attended the city hearing in DeKalb, Illinois back in the 90s to hear the debate on both sides regarding allowing equal public accommodations for LGBT folks.
At that time, a local charismatic minister stood at the speaker podium and said that the slippery slope logic that applied was that if you let the LGBT in, then soon the world would be filled with wanton orgies, the sole cause of AIDS (we know is a myth), sodomy, pedophilia, polygamy and all sorts of abominations of sin, etc. He in fact listed individual sex acts as a way of expressing his hate for homosexuals. In fact, I wondered at the time he spent obsessing at all of the different types of sexual acts of gay men, including some in the BDSM world. I wondered at the fact that he made pedophilia and homosexuality synonymous, and also that the idea of transgender was even more horrible to him. His idea was that if you open the door to just one of these so-called most heinous of sins that you open the door to all of them. And he lumped all of them together, finding them the same and equally depraved and evil.
The idea of certain branches of the charismatic church is that there are levels of sin, and homosexuality and gender identity are some of the most heinous. His line of thinking was similar to that of the Reverend Phelps, who I met on a couple of occasions while living in the Midwest. And believe me when I say that these distortions of logic are man-made and not from the Bible. They are beliefs that are twisted projections of an ancient concept of family, that saw women and children as property, and protected land rights and ownership, through inheritance. And by protecting the family homosexuality becomes a threat, as a so-called non procreating pursuit. Some conservative christians are also make homosexuality monstrous, because they are are using Bible verses to distort Christianity as an avenue for committing hate crimes, and justifying it as god’s law. Their concepts of hate and distorted interpretations of the bible have no basis in the reality of today. And in fact, they are very dangerous and harmful. I would make a case that they destroy not only LGBT people, but also the people who perpetuate them, but I don’t think I have the space or time in this answer to do so.
When I heard the minister’s argument that my being was no different from that of someone who commits sodomy or pedophilia, I was emotionally horrified that he would use both in the same sentence. But I was not surprised that he thought that way, because I had just left charismatic christianity when I came out as bisexual. When I came out to my minister as bisexual back in the late 1990s, he accused me of threatening the sanctity of marriage, conducting orgies with parishioners, and all sorts of sexual depravities which were his fantasies alone. The minister even broke confidentiality to discuss my supposed depravity with the couple’s prayer group and pray the devil out of me. (haha) I was aware of the brainwashing that occurred within that church. One of the deacons of the church came to my apartment door later, to “discuss” my depravities. But I can only just guess what his intentions were, and I didn’t let him in. I’m not sure why people automatically think that bisexual equates to orgies or multiple partners at one time, but whatever. I was doing none of those things, so the idea was pretty ridiculous. But ironically, I found more closeted LGBT people within the charismatic church in rural Illinois, than I found in the Unitarian Universalist church which was open and accepting of LGBT. However, they lived conflicted and unhappy lives, in terrible fear and pain of being exposed. I watched them cry, and self-punish, until they finally married into loveless marriages to conform to social expectations of gender and sexuality, all the while still being involved in LGBTQ activities on the weekend, and in denial.
The reason that I am telling you this story is to point out that the fear that exists regarding sex and gender identities and gay marriage has nothing to do with Bible verses. No amount of praying the devil out will ever pray away the gay. To hate transgender and homosexual people is a purely human fear of things that people do not understand. People learn to hate and fear difference (xenophobia) because the people they are around, their parents, and the fabric of society support it.
Hate is not something that comes naturally to children. Children learn it from their parents as they grow up. Conservatives demonize and attach monstrous proportions to things which they find as taboo. And they have no way to work through their fears of the things because their church and society says that they cannot talk about such shameful things in the open. And if they do, they are shameful themselves to even think about it. The teaching within the religious right is that if you even let a thought enter your mind, it is a sin. So with that cultural insight in mind, you can understand why religious right not only are easily manipulated by fear, but also that they become fossilized in their belief systems and are very difficult to get through to with reasoned arguments.
I know in my own case, I thought demons were around every turn, when I first left the church. Every gay person was capable of sprouting horns and selling me to the devil. And as a result of my separation from the church, I was so alienated and ostracized that I attempted to take my own life. Now what kind of Christian love is that which ostracizes a person in pain? I’m not sure, really. I don’t think it is the kind of Christian love that is described in the Bible. In the end, leaving that church with the prejudiced and hateful views was better for me than staying, despite any culture shock I experienced from coming out of conservative christianity.

Political Machinations

So while Anti-Trans Bathroom Bills are being drafted in droves by the Liberty Counsel, in order to further their anti LGBTQ agenda, in the meantime human beings are being made to suffer to forward the purposes of a political and religious agenda, and that is to stigmatize and criminalize the identity of transgender as well as cause set backs in general LGBTQ rights. Believe me, they take it personally, and they don’t care who they hurt in the process.
For those who are pre-transition, or questioning, these legislations stand to do the most harm. I’m talking about young people who are trying to figure out who they are. I’m talking about newly transitioning people trying to figure out their next steps. The potential damage that bathroom bills cause in PTSD trauma from aggression and micro-aggression, and potential violent or hateful reactions from non trans people towards trans people could be disastrous. See the below link on the trans teen who died in NC just as the NC bathroom bill was approved:

Casualties of War

The victims of the religious right’s so called cultural war are those who die from either murder or suicide due to a culture of intolerance, and a traditional view on religion and gender which seems to support their deaths in the name of religion and political power.
Trans Teen Activist, Former Homecoming King, Dies in Charlotte, N.C. around the same time that the vote for HB2 happened 1
And what about Leelah Acorn? We can never forget her tragic story. She died because of a societies pressures and judgements. Her Christian parents were uninformed and very unaware of the impact of gender dysphoria on transgender teens. And although no parents should be blamed for the suicide of a child, the cultural climate which produced the intolerance for transgender children should be held accountable.
Transgender Girl Pleads With Us To ‘Fix Society’ In Tumblr Suicide Note 2
Are we going to take her note seriously to fix society? What do you think needs to be fixed to get people to understand what it is to be treated as less than human? I’m sure there must be some parallel that you’ve experienced where people disrespected you in a way that made you feel like an animal? If so, then you might come close to understanding how trans people feel when people degrade or disrespect us. Leelah’s note was a call for help.
And the Liberty Counsel shown on CBS is **making pawns of those most vulnerable **including newly transitioning trans, young people, and also the victims of sexual assault whose stories are being manipulated for political gain. See: Rights v. Safety: Exploiting Survivors of Child Molestation 3
See Liberty Counsel: Group behind states’ religious freedom laws speaks out 4
I’m talking about people who are vulnerable because of not passing as either man or woman yet because they are just in the initial stages of transition and not having ANY safe place to pee in peace without fear of harassment, bullying or even attack and murder, depending on the level of safety and the area. And the transgender people are the ones who are at a disadvantage here. What one of you would want to hold your pee all day at your job? What negative mental and physical health effects would that have, if you felt like you might be murdered for using the wrong bathroom? And what if you have a beard and your birth certificate says female, and you are forced to use the female bathroom by law? Isn’t that awkward and uncomfortable? I know I don’t want to cause women discomfort at seeing me in their bathroom. There’s too many women that have been victims of (usually straight white men sexual predators), who will see me, and freak out that I’m in their bathroom. And conservatives are justifying bathroom bills all because somebody has an irrational fear of trans women??? I believe that these laws were specifically targeting of trans women with transphobic hate, and specifically ignorant of how the laws might play out in relationship to trans men. I just don’t get how they can presume to justify their positions. Trans women don’t transition so that they can go to jail for entering a restroom to relieve a very natural human function of passing water. Why would anyone transition if their main aim was to commit a crime and end up in jail? Trans people just want to lead normal and dignified lives as fellow human beings. And the only violence that is happening is that being perpetrated upon us.

What Lead Up to This Explosion of Bathroom Bills and Media Visibility?

I had previously answered a question on Quora about the history of the bathroom bills and how HB2 came to be a focal point of the transender rights movement: Konnor T. Crewe’s answer to Why did the transgender community choose to make bathroom usage their priority over more pressing needs? 5

Invisible Violence and the Transgender Community

1

In the aftermath of the Orlando massacre,no one in the Gender and Sexual Diversity (GSD) community could possibly miss the reverberations of fear, disbelief, horror and anger. All of us are mourning in our own way, whether GSD community or ally. It does not matter whether we were personally connected to the victims, or not. Most of us feel the moral outrage of such a horrendously violent act. And even though there is a difference between public mourning and personal grief, the power that internet media has to change us through felt solidarity is a subject worthy of philosophical discussion.2
However, everyone in the GSD community wants to know what the victim’s lives were like, how they identified as gay, Latino, Latina, transgender, etc.3 We want to relate to and identify the victims as our own people. Every time that there is a tragedy which demoralizes and dehumanizes a community, we want to understand the lives of those who died and understand their humanity in the context of our own. And it is not only just that we try to understand everything within the framework of our own identities and contexts.
Someone not from the LGBTQI community asked why knowing someone was gay or transgender was important and why that is emotionally significant. And part of the answer has to do with our complex and obstacle filled histories. So, why do we gender and sexual minority people feel the impact of the Orlando shooting so deeply? And I’m not being flippant when I ask, because I think the answer 4 is important.
The answer is so obvious to those of us who still face discrimination on a day to day basis. All places are not created equal when it comes to GSD rights. If you don’t live in place where GSD identities are normalized, you’ll understand why knowing the victims identities is important. Or if your adulthood started prior to 1980, you’ll understand. If you don’t live in a metropolitan area, you will completely relate to why it is important to know who the victims were. If you live in a country where GSD identities are criminalized, you’ll most definitely get it. We have not arrived at equality just because equal marriage laws passed. We haven’t even reached an a time in which all racial minorities are treated equally. We still have a long way to go before we can rest. And what about those who don’t yet have national recognition of their rights in their own countries?
And it is just as important to understand that it is okay to identify our own people as our own and feel deeply about it as it is to understand why we might feel so deeply connected. And it is important to realize that our truths are valid and legitimate to say out loud.
And in the case of HB2 which affected transgender people first, then lesbian, gay and bisexual people (LGB), how did the greater GSD community feel? There was a similar sense of horror, anger and outrage for our brothers and sisters and those in between in North Carolina. Although the events cannot compare, there was still a similar secondary trauma. We didn’t have to live in North Carolina to feel the pain. The bathroom bills seem to have been retribution for the supreme court decision on equal marriage.5 The result is a feeling of being under siege.
But again, the mainstream public questioned why HB2 was so button pushing to transgender and gay people. Why do GSD people have such strong feelings? Why did we “choose” to pursue the bathroom bill issue so passionately? You can see that in the following question: 6 However the reason has to do with basic human dignity. The assault upon our dignity and peace of mind presented a challenge.
Obvious sources of violence to transgender people are things like murder and assault as a result of hate or fear of difference. These concrete examples of violence are so obvious as sources of harm that no person could possibly deny they are a violation of human rights. However, what is invisible violence in the transgender community?
As U R is artistically conceptualizing or grouping together psychological harm like secondary trauma7, degradation, humiliation, ostracizing, micro-aggression, hate speech, and other sorts of non physical assault, as invisible violence in order to create the healing theme of our project. We’d like to promote public education and understanding in order to combat invisible violence.

There’s been much research on misgendering, microaggression, ostracizing, bullying and stigmatization as violence through the research of critical race theory. And some, like Mrs. D’Orsay, have talked about how that might impact other kinds of minorities like transgender people. 8 On Violence Against Trans People; Mrs. Antonia Elle D’Orsay, Ph.D., M.S., M.A.]

What is Secondary Trauma or Vicarious Trauma?

By definition, those affected by secondary or vicarious trauma include friends, and in the words of the vicarious trauma website as far as who is affected “and the list goes on”. The definition of vicarious or secondhand trauma is broad and does not just include those in the helping professions. So by definition, the inclusiveness of the term is open-ended. Those who feel a connection to victims of a terrible event can feel PTSD symptoms just like those people who experience the event first hand. So, for example, those of us who attend Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR)9 feel strongly for so many transgender women and men, many of whom are people of color, whose lives have been lost to murder. As a trans man, I can still feel the pain. I do not have to be a person of color, or a trans woman. The majority of the victims of murder are trans women. And for those who are newly transitioning, the reality of transgender violence may be frightening to the point of second hand trauma. And the event in Orlando has had an effect on quite a few transgender people I know. If you look at just the transgender people’s answers on this question, 10 you can see that all the transgender people do not actually feel safe. And this is just one example of transgender people’s reactions to Orlando. We have to have more effective ways of processing the hurts of our brothers and sisters to keep our community healthy.
Those who experience secondary trauma can have physical symptoms as a result due to stress. And stress can bring on illness. Sufferers of secondary trauma can have psychological symptoms such as fear of dying, fear of going out of the house, fight or flight responses, dissociation, etc. And whether it is a connection of friendship, or a connection of a feeling of solidarity with the victims, that close tie of empathy is what makes invisible violence so insidious. Not everyone processes their feelings in the same way, but some are impacted quite severely by things like current events, TDOR, violence to a friend, seeing things that happen to people they are connected to on social media, etc. Does that mean we shut ourselves off from other people and the news in order to not suffer vicarious trauma? No. We are human first and foremost. We desire to be in connection with other people.

Knowledge is Power

Awareness of how invisible violence can affect groups of people is one step towards healing. What we’d like to do at As U R Studio is artistically explore the subject of invisible violence in order to transform people’s experiences into understanding and well-being. We’d like to give the term invisible violence a physical shape and texture to create understanding in the public eye. And while that is quite an undertaking, we can only do so individually and one person at a time. So Kristian and I would like to officially start a project known and The Invisible Violence Project
About the Author
Konnor T. Crewe is a genderqueer trans man who lives in an art community in the Northwest Boston area. Konnor writes poetry, autobiographical and non autobiographical nonfiction in relationship to the transgender identity, and would also like to delve into the realm of sci-fi fantasy fiction.