Why I Care About Trans Day of Remembrance as a (“Cisgender”) Gay Man

I’m a white gay Jewish man. Up until a few years ago, I didn’t even know what “cisgender” meant.

Three weeks ago, I went to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp in Germany with a group of LGBT Jews. At Sachsenhausen, gay men or those accused of being gay were forced into isolated heavily guarded barracks in order to prevent “infection” of other prisoners. These men were tortured, castrated, and used in scientific experiments.

Creative Commons/Sean Kelly

Creative Commons/Sean Kelly

Their families denounced them. They had no support network for food or care. When a gay man entered the camp his life expectancy was ten weeks. For Jewish homosexual men, it was a week. When the guide told us this kernel of information, as a group of mostly gay men, we were stunned. How could people do this to each other?

Later on in the week, one gay man reluctantly asked me, “Why do we have to include the ‘T’ in LGBT?” It sounded like a chore. I almost choked on my curry.

And then the next question: “Why should a gay man care about trans issues?” Gulp. “What is a gay man’s responsibility to trans people?”

This wasn’t light dinner conversation. No one intended to be rude. It just wasn’t obvious. He knew to include the “T” but didn’t know why. To satiate their hunger for an answer, I put down my fork.

After reviewing all the arguments in my mind, the complexity was reduced to this:

While I am a trans ally, it’s really that I’m a human ally. Trans people are people. I firmly believe that every person should live with full dignity and have full access to opportunity regardless of whether or not they fit within society’s restrictive and rigid binary code for gender or sexuality. I firmly believe people should feel safe expressing themselves fully in their community. Every person deserves the right to be visible and heard. As a human ally, I want a world where my future children see every person treated with respect and are taught to do the same. I want my children to live and succeed, not just exist and recede into seclusion. They shouldn’t feel alienated, be called freaks, or attacked for being true to themselves.