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Trans Beauty, Grief, and Bodily Autonomy ❀

by Dallas Cant

CW: anti-trans violence, trans loss, death.
This may be a particularly heavy post. If you are struggling and need to talk to someone, Trans Life Line is a resource that you might find useful. They are a grassroots hotline that is operated by and for trans people. In Canada, call (877) 330-6366 ; in US, call (877) 565-8860

After spending time with Lisa Rosen and Linda Rubin’s post on National Bullying Prevention Month, as well as Fiona and Jaque’s response piece “Anti-bullying attitudes and Anti-Vax Protests: Who’s Bullying Who?”, I began to think through what it means to care for one another, to protect one another, and to show up in solidarity to the harms youth and adults experience in their day-to-day lives.

I realize these are big questions. One’s which bring up broad understandings and notions of community ethics and the right to safety. Yet, they are ones which constantly swirl around in my mind. And as Rosen and Rubin write, “children have the right not to be bullied at school or online.” As such, these questions are crucial, and spending time talking about what they mean in schools, amongst colleagues, within organizations, and in the home can be life saving.

These questions are too particularly heavy with the recent passing of the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR). TDOR is an annual observance on November 20th which commemorates and honours the lives of Trans people who have lost their lives to anti-trans violences. First organized in 1999 to grieve and honour the life of Rita Hester, the day has continued as a way of holding space for trans grief and to bring explicit attention to the realities of violence that trans people are forced to navigate.

A taper candle with the trans flag (from top to bottom: blue, pink, white, pink) burns on a solid black background. Image from Quest Community Health Centre

My heart feels heavy as I write this. Trans people are gifts, and they deserve to be protected, celebrated, and honoured. Trans people are my beloved community that I am blessed to know and love. I know this is true for many.

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Bullying is so often intertwined with a hatred of difference or transgression. When people are living lives that do not neatly comply with big notions of ‘normal’ (normal of course as informed by intersecting systems of oppression that tell us some are superior or innately better than others), anger and a pull to ‘correct’ overcomes some of us. The anti-vax slogan against COVID-19 vaccinations (and vaccinations broadly) “my body my choice” falls particularly hard within this understanding of bullying. As Fiona and Jaque have brilliantly noted, this phrase seems less about a call for true bodily autonomy and more of a twisted entitlement to police what others deserve, what they can do with their bodies, and generally, how people should be living their lives.

In the face of these realities, then, how can we as individuals and members of communities push back? And most importantly, protect?

While many ideas come to mind for me, as I’m sure they are for you, I want to end with the importance of celebrating transness, in all the ways that looks. It is hard to imagine a time where people can exist without the judgement, violence, and legislation in service of policing true bodily autonomy – that is, the right to choose what happens to your body, the right to access what your body and mind needs and when, the right to safety and systems of justice that do not cause harm to marginalized and criminalized communities. But as I have learnt from many BIPOC trans activists, it is vital to imagine this time. Imagining and dreaming these worlds lead us to act (now) in service of cultivating safer learning environments for trans youth, curriculum that honours the labour and lives of BIPOC trans and genderqueer activists, worlds that celebrate trans art, that celebrate every way of being in a body.

What do you imagine?

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