Confounded by Turning Backs on People

by John Zaber

CRAFTSBURY COMMON – I am the parent of a 29 year old transgender woman and each day I wake with concern for her safety. The murder of Fern Feather has brought my fears, anxieties and anger to the surface. I call on the religious and political leaders who seek personal and political gain through the espousal of hatred aimed at all those who fall outside falsely constructed paradigms of gender to stop the hatred. Your gain comes at the cost of lives and I hold you complicit in the death of Fern Feather and the 57 trans/nongender conforming murder victims as reported by the Human Rights Campaign (2021). Your views and perspectives couched in the preservation of the family helps to fuel the fires of hatred. As the U.S. is patting itself on its back for the much-needed support of the Ukraine people we are turning our backs on our own citizens. As a country founded on the beliefs of freedom and individual rights I am confounded by the turning of backs on the people you are expected to represent, support and defend.

From my perspective the path towards the self-recognition of one’s true identity can be fraught with the loss of family support, isolation and exclusion. As a parent I learned that failing to recognize and embrace my daughter’s identity risked her disappearance from our lives. To truly embrace my daughter I placed myself in a position of love and unconditional acceptance. I had to mourn the loss of my son so that I could fully celebrate and support my daughter’s transition to her authentic self.

I ask that as Vermonters we take up the task of educating ourselves on the topics of gender identity and become aware of the risk imposed when we turn our backs.  As an example the Human Rights Campaign (2018)  report states  “More than half of transgender male teens who participated in the survey reported attempting suicide in their lifetime, while 29.9 percent of transgender female teens said they attempted suicide. Among non-binary youth, 41.8 percent of respondents stated that they had attempted suicide at some point in their lives.” 

Among the dead and survivors are our children, nieces and nephews, cousins, classmates, neighbors, parents and colleagues. While we live under the banner of Freedom and Unity we must not be complacent – a portion of our  neighbors experience hatred, mis-gendering, humiliation, violence and racism on a daily basis.

I mourn the loss of Fern and pray for my  daughter’s safety. I pray for the safety of others and implore us all to put aside hatred  and recognize the value of support,  acceptance and, if possible, love.

[John Zaber is a retired educator with 30 years of experience teaching, and learning, from Vermont students, middle-school through college.]