My name is Joan Bohlman. I am a Transgender woman.
When I was 16 years old I attempted to end my life. I was in a coma for 3 days. After this I bounced around treatment facilities. I eventually found myself in a residential treatment facility in Utah where I stayed for 13 months. At that time I had no understanding of what it means to be Transgender or the concepts of Gender. I was confused. I knew things were not ‘right’. I thought perhaps I was Gay but thinking of myself as Gay did not bring me any peace of mind or body.
When I was in college I had my epiphany. My epiphany was the result of someone else coming out to me. This led me to a profound realization regarding the discontentment that filled my life. If this person had not come out to me I do not know how long it would have taken me to begin the process of truly understanding myself. Another person’s courage moved my life in a new direction where my life became valuable to me. This experience saved my life.
On this day of Transgender Remembrance we gather to remember those who have left us but it is also a day for us to remember that I have nothing to hide. We have nothing to hide. We must stand up together and be proud of who we are. We must be a beacon for those in the darkness by standing strong to let those that are lost know that they are not alone. We must be an anchor standing with them in the storm to prevent them from drowning. If we are strong for others they will be strong for us.
It is easy to ‘blend in’ for many Transgender men and women. Blending in is a source of inexpressible solace. However, at the end of the day we must be willing to step up and be visible. Every Transgender person is a survivor and it is our responsibility to help those who are still struggling. We are here today to honor the memories of our family, friends, and colleagues.
The isolation of feeling broken and the embarrassment that comes with not being socially ‘normal’ are two of the hardest things a Transgender person has to deal with. It is true that we will always be a minority; however, we need to be visible in order for others to understand us. The taboo toward Transgender people which damages us is deeply rooted in our culture but it is not something that is impossible to overcome. We have witnessed this with LGB people. It is my hope that some day blending in will no longer mean hiding.
Tonight and every day we must look at the tragedy of those we have lost to suicide and violence. We must refuse to let it continue. It may be hard for some of us but by taking action we can ensure a better experience for those who will join us and follow us as Transgender people.
Thank you very much. I love all of you.
Transgender Day of Remembrance 2014 at the Free2Be LGBTQ Resource Center in Huntsville Alabama.