Ghost, Writing: On Trans Erasure in the Trump Administration

When I was a child, sometimes, I’d imagine what it would be like to be a ghost. Plus sides included floating through walls and knocking random items over just to mess with people. Downsides included the fact that your loved ones wouldn’t be able to see you. Your friends wouldn’t notice you, and even if someone did figure out that you were there, you would never be able to communicate with them. You’d be a presence, but a presence forgotten and ignored—fading into the background but unable to die; only able to sit and watch the world go by, always, always without you.

I decided, back then, that it would be incredibly lonely.

When the memo regarding the potential erasure of transgender people by the Trump administration leaked, I felt the same surge of panic that I had envisioned back then—panic at the fading, the holding on, and the inevitable erasure of existence.

I cannot speak for all trans people, but I can speak as a trans person who exists: I am so, so tired. Being transmasculine and nonbinary isn’t easy on the best of days—my day is driven by nervousness. I walk with my shoulders hunched, both afraid and fiercely proud of the trans flag and pronoun pins on my backpack, announcing me as a potential target to any anti-trans person who might just be angry enough to get physical about it. I bite my lip in the subway when those same pins are displayed for anyone to read, struggling with that same sense of fear and pride—I don’t want to be hit, assaulted, or murdered. I am proud of who I am. Being who I am could get me hit, assaulted, or murdered. I am brave. I am terrified. I am so very, very tired.

Image from the William's Institute

More than anything else, I am scared to death of becoming a ghost, invisible to a world that does not recognize me. I am already regularly misgendered, already familiar with the way my stomach clenches at every “she”—but this would be different. This would be a world where I would have no hope of being legally recognized as anything other than a woman—a world where I might not ever be able to start hormone therapy or receive top surgery—a world where my pronouns, they/them, would not only never be asked, but would never be recognized for any individual ever again. This world would be different. This world would be worse.

A 2017 Australian study discovered that half the population of transgender children in an unsupportive environment attempt suicide. Getting rid of trans people would only make those numbers skyrocket—only increase the number of small coffins families would have to carry, creating real ghosts; not just faded, weary, gray and weeping faces, but souls that once lived and would be gone, with the wrong gender on the birth certificate and the wrong name on the gravestone.

Image from Rosy Rainbow

I am not yet faded or gray, but I am so very weary, and I have wept so much the last few weeks that I am wrung dry. And so there is really only one recourse left to me, which is to beg. Beg to be treated with human dignity. Beg for LGB members to help their trans siblings. Beg for those who consider themselves allies to stand up, volunteer, donate. Beg for anything that will help, from anyone who is willing. Use the last of my voice to beg, before my skin turns translucent and my face becomes gray and my words are silenced.

I will beg on my knees for my humanity before I am erased into a ghost.