Okay kittens, pull up a piece of floor and grab a seat, I’m going to put on my Professor Kitty look and do some edumacatin’.
Now, there will be those whose “I’m offended” switch is already halfway to the on position … cool your jets sparky, and settle down, this is not a make-wrong, this is a chance to broaden your mind and learn something new.
I am still the same cantankerous, crass, cynical, caustic, comical curmudgeon, with the warped, twisted, dry, wry, extra filthy mind, where my sense of humour runs at least 4 shades darker than most people you know. I love to be amused as much as the next person, and if ya see me walking along the street (likely talking to myself), and you have a good filthy joke, stop me and tell it to me! The humour centre in my brain needs regular and constant stimulation. 😉
Let’s take a look at the new Snapchat filters (the gender bending/gender swapping ones) that have suddenly sprang up since late last week. I honestly just raised the Mr. Spock eyebrow, thought to myself “fascinating” (included a noticeable eye roll … I swear I have the strongest eye muscles in town) and motored along as per usual, wearing a slightly bemused look.
Then the ugliness hit the online world, as you just know it would. Sat and watched it unfold for a few days, and then launched into a number of conversations about it.
These gender-bending/gender-swap filters are good for a laugh, and are hilarious when shared among friends and family … when they hit the public internet, it goes sour quickly.
Let’s take a look at what’s occurred online, and the harm it will cause, and continues to cause, globally. I have no need to spell out the bullying and hate that has accompanied these images online. Let’s just say it’s far uglier than you could conceive of, folks, by at least a factor of 10.
We have just completed Mental Health Week, and May is Mental Health Awareness Month. There are two identifiable conditions that these filtered photos are used against. Those people who battle Body Dysmorphic Disorder, and those who battle Gender Dysphoria (also called Gender Incongruence). The folks with Body Dysmorphia are the most incredible people you could meet. Truly beautiful people inside and out, I have had the honour of meeting a few in recent years. Yet, BDD causes their mind to see themselves, their mirror image, as something that is the ugliest imaginable creation known in the history of the human race. The rates of self-harm and death by suicide of those people with this diagnosis is still sky-high; and it spikes when things like these filters, again, created for fun, but used for ugliness and bullying online, reach their screens.
You are aware, (and if you are not, have you been paying attention or are you new?) of the staggering numbers of both deaths by suicide, and violent homicides amongst the transgender community worldwide. For teens who have no family support, the rate is 58%, if they have a supportive family environment, that number drops to 4% (2018 statistical study, AFSP). In the general population, depending on which study you compare to, and area of the world, the rate ranges between 42% and 50% for trans adults. Consider that the rate for the general population ranges from 1.6% to 10%, depending on study and area of the world. Last year’s TDOR had “accurately” reported homicides between 386 and 418, again, depending on study and statistics. We have long known that the real number is in the thousands, but there is a long way to go before there is any hope of accuracy in reporting.
The transgender community, globally, these are the folks who battle Gender Dysphoria (or Gender Incongruence, depending on reference guides), and even with the changes coming in the approved ICD-11 guidelines, which should finally update the DSM for DSM-VI, it is still an issue, largely ignored by the majority of the medical world. Until then, the consequences of this condition are what I’ve stated above.
I was once asked, when we are so aware of the numbers of fatalities and deaths by suicide, if it’s a ghoulish occupation. No, actually. As the elders in the group, we feel it is our responsibility to keep the vigil for those lost. How does one become an elder? It has been mostly by age and years of service. Let me spell this out for you … in June, I will have the anniversary of my start in activism and advocacy for my rainbow clan. It will mark the completion of 37 years, and the start of my 38th. While I have retired from activism, I am still deeply involved in advocacy work every day. When I started as a teenager, I honestly expected this to be resolved before I reached 50. September will be the anniversary of my advocacy work for mental health, completing 27 years, and launching into the 28th. Both areas still have a staggering amount of work to be done yet, that I had hoped would be completed by now.
One further statistic, this one usually gets gasps in my lectures. As I mentioned, I’m 55, barrelling down on 56. The statistical life expectancy for a transgender woman in the province of Ontario is 47 years. Yes, you read that correctly, forty-seven. And we are actually on the high end of the life expectancy scale. Cross the border into the excited states, land of the tangerine tyrant, your life expectancy drops to 35. If you are a person of colour, subtract at least 5-10 years. Shuffle down to South America, drop your life expectancy to 25 years. In some countries, homicides and suicides PER WEEK, exceed many national annual totals. It’s not a pretty picture.
Given my current age, you can look at it in one of two ways, I’m living on borrowed time, or, I’m beating the odds. I prefer that I’m beating the odds, it’s a much more empowering narrative. So, how does one become an elder these days? Sad to say, it’s usually because you’re beating the odds and still have a pulse and are drawing breath, and you care about your folks.
Look, I’ve seen the end results of some really brutal bullying that people have endured. And there are those fuckwits out there, when they find the chink in your armour, will attack it mercilessly. Bullying causes PTSD, which causes death by suicide, in far too many cases. I have case study upon case study to prove it, sadly.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder can cause an increase in severity in other conditions, such as eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia, etc.). If you want to dig into this one further, one good resource is NEDIC (National Eating Disorders Information Centre). And Gender Dysphoria/Incongruence can also increase the severity of other conditions. Ask someone who at times has to cover their bathroom mirror, because the sight of the image they see causes them to gag. (I plead guilty on that one, it’s not as often as it used to be, but it still happens occasionally.)
Look kittens, have fun with these things, get silly, laugh until your sides ache – just do so responsibly. But, please keep a thought for those who are continuing to battle daily. Gender bending/swapping filters are making the executives at Snapchat even more money than before, and they are getting their jollies watching the coffers swell … the human condition is something they care not a whit about. It’s up to us. Be the better person, with a pocketful of information/knowledge, m’kay. To quote my favourite fount of wisdom (they know who they are): “I’ve seen some of the proud postings and thought, ‘play with yourself, but sharing verges on being offensive and when in doubt, resist’. “
End of lesson, no quiz needed. Just do me one favour, go forth with love and compassion for the other bipedal carbon-based life forms you encounter in your journey, ‘k?
With love, sunbeams, and kitten dreams.
Keep talking mental illness, we are in this together, you are not alone!
Professor Kitty / City Mom / Christine 💚💚