Invisible Violence and the Transgender Community


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.