I’m no stranger to death.
The first death I witnessed was in a NICU in nursing school. A physician held her finger on the infant’s heart and literally kept the heartbeat going until the parents were present and she yelled out to the room of about fifty people “I’m open to suggestions” but her voice cracked on suggestions. The room went eerily silent and then she pulled her finger off the infant’s heart and that was the end.
In the pediatric emergency department I was called the “black cloud” because I was usually on when shit went down. Meaning kids died. There were a variety of ways in which people died. There were also times when we would have to give heartbreaking diagnoses to unsuspecting families and terms like “inoperable” and “comfort care” were tossed around.
That part of my life was rough. Watching kids die takes a toll emotionally and physically. It’s not a job I could do forever and I was in tune enough with myself to know that.
But now I hear my clients talk about death in a myriad of manners and I am brought to my knees in a whole new way.
A common fear among my transgender clients is being murdered. One of their biggest fears and obstacles sometimes to transitioning is being murdered.
Every day I see an article of Facebook about transgender individuals who are murdered, and so do my clients. Then I have to sit in a therapy session with them and explore this.
Here’s the deal. When one of my anxious clients has an irrational fear I can usually in good conscious say “That’s not going to happen” (I mean I say it more therapeutically than that but that’s the general idea). But when a transgender client fears for their safety I can’t negate it. That literally fucking kills me.
How horrible is it to sit across from an individual and want to support them in their journey to their authentic self, but have to also support them in their fears that by being themselves they might be murdered.
I think somewhere in my head there is a fear for my safety as a lesbian. But based on where I live, the people I surround myself with, and my karate experience (this is a j/k moment. I literally only got my green belt but in my head I feel like I’m actually a black belt super ninja). I don’t live with that fear minute by minute or hour by hour. It’s only there when I’m somewhere down South if I’m being really honest. And if I fear for my safety I may fear verbal abuse or discrimination, I don’t take the leap in my head to murder. But transgender people are being killed. It’s a real thing. If you don’t know about the cases then educate yourself.
Honestly seeing something happen fast in the emergency department was almost easier to cope with then being let into clients private hopes and dreams and feeling the fear with them and overall I guess just caring more deeply.
Clients are not always aware of the impact they have on providers. Because we have to remain somewhat detached and objective during sessions.
Speaking human to human though, it is impossible to sit with someone and hear that their fear of being murdered is stopping them from living life the way they feel they should and not feel something.
It is impossible to sit with them in that knowledge as they proceed bravely toward their transition and not feel something.
Watching and supporting someone courageous enough to face death for being themselves is awesome and inspiring and terrifying and beautiful.
Your providers are feeling all of this for you. At least this provider is.
Perhaps there will come a day in my career when I can tell a transgender client that they do not have to fear discrimination or hate or murder. But today is not that day. Today I can tell them I admire them and as I sit in my living room with a fire blazing on this cold October night, I am thinking of them.