Is it really a choice?

The other day when I was a guest on our local radio talk show, both the host and one of the listeners used wording that made it seem like being transgender is a choice. One of the listeners that called in said “…these people are trying to have us legitimize their behaviour(1)..” and another caller said “…well it was your choice to be who you wanted to be…(2)“. What this sounds like – at least to me – is that many people still think that being transgender is a choice -that it’s a lifestyle or set of behaviours that we choose.

I would like to ask these people a very, very simple question: Why would anyone willingly choose a lifestyle or set of behaviours which puts them at a much greater risk for depression, suicide, assaults both sexual and physical and even becoming a victim of homicide?

In an e-bulletin issued on November 12th 2010, the Trans Pulse survey group released results from the survey that had been sent to people who had identified as transgender. This survey was unique in that it is a respondent driven survey. Once you had obtained a code to complete the survey (presumably from a transgender connection of your own) you were given three codes to pass on to other trasngender folks. This survey garnered 433 results and was limited to Ontario only. Of those numbers, a startling 77% said they had seriously considered suicide(3). What’s even more heartbreaking is that 43% had actually attempted suicide(4).

That’s just the most recent statistic I was able to find on the subject of suicide and transgender folks. This doesn’t even address the homicides,assaults (sexual or physical), discrimination, or issues of homelessness that transgender people face on a daily basis.

I ask you, do you really think someone would choose a lifestyle that puts everything on the line like that? Do you think boys, girls, men and women just wake up one day and say “Hey, I’d like to dramatically increase my risk of dying and of being assaulted. I haven’t been discriminated against enough lately and I could really use some fuel for some suicidal ideation. I think I’m going to just change my gender and see what happens.”

Sounds silly when you say it that way, doesn’t it? Yet that’s what many critics of trans folk argue. That it’s a choice, that we somehow woke up one morning and decided we weren’t happy with our gender the way it was and just decided it was time for a change.

I know I wouldn’t be going down this road just for kicks, would you?

Thanks to Ashley N for her editorial assistance

1 The Jeff Allan Show podcast on March 1st 2011 “Gender Identity Bill” segment http://www.570news.com/listen/listenplayer/190907–10am-gender-identity-bill
2 Ibid
3 Ontario’s Trans Communities and Suicide : Transphobia is Bad for Our Health. Trans PULSE E-Bulletin Volume 1, Issue 2. November 12 2010 http://transpulse.ca/documents/E2English.pdf
4 Ibid

    • Cody
    • April 19th, 2011

    Found your blog through transguys.com mapping. It’s nice to finally see someone based in Ontario talking about things. I’ve had a serious lack of success in finding “local” resources so far.

    • Great to have you on board! Feel free to ping me if I can be of any assistance.

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