Sunday, November 20, 2011


I've gotten pretty good at guessing the weight of my big red suitcase when it's full.  There was a time when I actually weighed it to make sure it wasn't over 50 pounds.  Now, I've got a fair sense of what 50 pounds feels like.  When I went to the airport today I guessed that it weighed 49 pounds and it weighed exactly 50.  Phew.

I didn't make it to the NGLCC Dinner on Friday night.  The day felt like the culmination of my cold and by the time late afternoon rolled around I was tired and achy and just couldn't imagine having to go out, or to inflict my germs on others.  So I stayed home, had some Nyquil, and fell into a stupor well before 11pm.  I've been feeling gradually better, but it's still holding on.

This weekend the Transgender Day of Remembrance will be recognized at services around the country, and around the world.  It continues to pain me that the single day of the year that brings us and our allies together is a day that's dedicated to the memory of our dead.  But it's a somber reminder that the world in which we live is still a very difficult, dangerous place for those who are different (see list of 2011 dead here).

Beyond each name, each of these people was a life.  A living, breathing person whose time on earth was cut short because someone brutalized them and took that life.  But they didn't take their personhood, nor did they take their identity.  So coming together and reading these names and hearing these stories needs to be as much a celebration of their authenticity as an opportunity to grieve and mourn.

Being part of these events often provokes a number of strong emotional responses.  Anger.  Sadness.  Confusion as to how horrific things like this can happen.  But the hope is that these emotions can become focused in productive ways to change the world, not to simply accept it as it is.

Just this past week a trans woman was shot and killed on the street in Hollywood CA (story here) and a burned, dismembered body that had been sitting in the Detroit morgue for 3 weeks was identified as that of a 19-year old transgender teen (story here).  The carnage continues.  But so, too, does our resolve to hold those who do these crimes accountable, to confront the reasons they happen, and to ensure that the memory of our dead endures.

For many, this is a time of community.  Events that I've attended through the years have been a wonderful mix of trans people of all kinds and ages, and our allies.  But I hope none of us is naive enough to believe that coming together once a year to mourn is enough.  Indeed, there's an article in Huffington that says it better than I could (read entire article):
In marking this TDOR, it is time for leaders in the LGB communities to admit that they need to do more. Transgender individuals are a small minority of the LGBT community but are also the ones who need the most support this day and age. I ask you to imagine being a transwoman walking down the street and how many hateful epithets you would have to tolerate in order to pick up a gallon of milk or visit a doctor's office.

Or imagine a child at 13 or 14 being disowned and having no safe space to turn to -- no school, no shelters, and no public services ready or willing to take her in except for law enforcement, who will many times pick up young transwomen on suspicion of prostitution, whether there is valid evidence or not.

Or imagine a 19-year-old girl being dropped off at an acquaintance's home by a taxi on a Sunday night and finding three men on the lawn waiting for her. Imagine them kidnapping, torturing, decapitating, dismembering and burning her alive for sport, as young, raucous boys would to a Barbie doll. Imagine them chucking her torso on the side of a highway, with absolutely no regret or sense of immorality. Imagine being the mother called into the morgue to identify a defiled torso as your daughter. Swallow that bitter pill of reality and tell me that marriage is the most important issue for the LGBT community in 2011. For several in the transgender community, it might as well be 1969 all over again, because nothing has changed for them.

Yet there are many organizations that espouse to support the transgender community, but really what they are doing is splitting hairs. In light of Shelley Hilliard's charred torso, the actual amount of money and human resources that most LGBT organizations devote to transgender services is insulting.
It's all true.  And that, too, needs to change.  But it's not going to change by itself....

Last year at this time I was in Harrisburg PA where we held a candlelight vigil on the steps of the Capital.  The year before I was at Grand Valley State University in Michigan where we held a similar event on a similarly chilly evening.  I'd have to go back into my blog archives to figure out where I was the year before that.  In 2003 I was in DC and a small group of us met on the freezing cold steps of the US Capitol Building.

At DOR 2003

This year I'm traveling.  I'm in a hotel.  And some things in my life are very much in flux right now.  But I do not and will not forget - not simply today but throughout the year - that any one of us could be memorialized next year, or the year after that, or the year after that.  As long as we live in a culture that stigmatizes us, demonizes us, dehumanizes us, and targets us - we're all at risk. But we're not hiding, going away, or falling silent.  Because to do so would be to admit that those who violate us have won.

But they haven't.  And, they won't.

1 comment:

Sophie Lynne said...

They cannot win as long as we have voices to speak and the will to do so.

All of us.