Transmissions: A time to breathe

  • by Gwendolyn Ann Smith
  • Wednesday May 1, 2024
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Illustration: Christine Smith
Illustration: Christine Smith

You really do not need me to tell you how bleak things are right now for the trans community. Whether it is yet another round of anti-trans bathroom bills, laws to make it a felony to provide us care, or more sports bans, legislators are doing their best to make our lives miserable. The mainstream media — when it isn't airing anti-trans comedy specials — is busy elevating transphobes in the pages of the country's biggest news outlets. Our country has become a patchwork of locations where we can — and more often, cannot — set foot in.

Meanwhile, our nation is sleepwalking toward a November election with potentially disastrous consequences, as we see a weak Biden administration take on the corrupt second coming of former President Donald J. Trump. Hand-in-hand with our own struggles, a litany of racism, xenophobia, sexism, homophobia, and every other -ism you can imagine is making a resurgence, as well as major fights for abortion rights.

Heck, we even have one Republican vice presidential hopeful, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, openly discussing her prowess in killing her pet dog.

Somewhere along the way, everything just became awful and, let's be honest here, the issue of trans existence is at the center of a lot of it. Our very ability just to be is under perilous threat.

We need time to breathe. We need time for our joy.

Now, I am not suggesting that we need to cast our fears by the wayside like some trans Scarlett O'Hara, and ignore the very real, very dangerous state of the world. For one thing, I don't think that's actually possible.

What I am telling you is not to despair, even while everything else is pushing us to the brink.

For those who want to see us wiped off the face of this planet, our distress serves their will. Their joy is in our sorrows, and if we push ourselves to the margins, then we have done their work for them.

Every bill a lawmaker puts forward against trans lives is seeking to rob us of our autonomy, and to prevent us from leading full and happy lives. Many commentators — and let's include the author of a certain magical wizard book series among this crew — want to see us in misery, unable to function, and gone from this world.

It is incumbent on us not to let them win.

I'm not going to sit here and tell you that I don't deal with anguish myself. In my darker moments, I worry that I haven't done enough or, perhaps, if all the things I have done have only accelerated our demise. I fret that maybe it is already too late, and there's nothing that can be done to stop certain doom.

Yet, I also know that the only way to ensure failure is to give up. Even if there are the most minuscule chances of survival, that remains a possibility. As long as there is the faintest glimmer of hope, it is worth holding onto it.

Again, we need time to breathe. We need time for our joy.

There is another thing about these times: it is easier than ever to access others who are trans. We can be found, with some ease, on the social media platforms of our choice. We create art, music, and visual programs on the web and elsewhere. We create beauty that elevates our souls. Seek it out, and embrace what calls to you.

In the face of such utter contempt for trans lives, simply continuing to exist is a radical act. Make them have to suffer your red-hot, trans existence. Make them have to feel their animus and discomfort.

More than this, don't just survive, but do what you can to thrive. Make your art, find your joy, and do what you can — no matter how small — to find something that makes this world better for you. It is your well-being that matters here.

Of course, you may have a hard time feeling like prioritizing yourself. You may be so beaten down that you cannot hold your head up. Trust me, I feel this. There is still something you can do: help one another.

Every trans person is in the same boat right now. Reach out. Be a shoulder that someone can cry on, or be an ear for someone who just wants to be heard. Help out, whether it is supporting a local trans program, or just being there for another trans sibling.

As I write this, Pride celebrations are quickly approaching, as June is Pride Month. It may be hard to feel like celebrating right now, with so much going on.

Yet, I will counter that this is what we need. If not a party full of fun and laughter, then remember that Pride started as a riot, where we came together more than 50 years ago at the Stonewall Inn, an LGBTQ bar in New York City's Greenwich Village. We understood that we were not going to be oppressed one more time.

Today, be radical. Embrace the whole of your community and don't hold back. If others are busy standing against us, then now is the time to stand up for each other. Let your freak flag fly and elevate the flags of those around you, too.

There are, as you are well aware, multitudes of people who have found some sick desire in standing against our community, and who feel that they wish to make it their calling to tear us down. Yet again, we need time to breathe. We need time for our joy.

We cannot, will not, let them stand in our way.

Gwen Smith offers you her hand. You'll find her at

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