According to stats cited by HRC (who are otherwise being disrespectful assholes at the moment), transgender people have a 1 in 12 chance of being murdered in their lifetimes. Even those who dispute the number seem to want to place it at 10 times the murder rate of every one else. Whichever number is correct, or if the truth is somewhere in the middle, it’s high. We know it’s high from the number of stories we see every year. And the high rate has nothing to do with luck; it has everything to do with bigotry.
Thirty names have been added this year to the list of the dead. Most of them were women. All of them died violently, too soon, and due to hatred against who they were. Their names include Duanna Johnson, Sanesha Stewart, Alexis King, Angie Zapata, Lateisha Green, Ebony Whitaker, Dilek Ince, and Aimee Wilcoxson. Four of these women — Duanna, Lateisha, Dilek and Aimee — were murdered in the past 20 days alone.
They were murdered. They didn’t die from illness or accident. For each and every one of these people, someone made the choice to end a life, to take a person away from their friends and family, to devalue another human being enough to decide that their lives did not matter. They were murdered. We must remember that.
Transgender Day of Remembrance is not a once-a-year deal. You don’t show up for services, murmur “lest we forget” and then promptly forget for the rest of the year. Today lives within us, because we cannot afford to forget.
Still. Today most of all, we remember those who were killed. Because we die violently, unmemorialised, and are mocked after our deaths.
Because the world sees us disposable, less than human (and who can mourn that?). Many of the dead lost their lives because they were trans women of colour, doubly disposable. Racism is killing our sisters every bit as much as trans misogyny is.
Who would mourn a thing, a that, an it?
Few will respect our lives as they were, and few will mourn them, and they must be mourned. Their lives were meaningful, their names and genders were real and important, and they lost their lives from hate.
Today we hold on to some memory, even if it only be a name and a photo, so that they are not as erased as completely as their killers would have.
Because the medical people treating them will have tried to erase them. The media. The police. The juries. Will try to excuse, to render less than real, the lives that have been lost. Because who would mourn? Who would bother?
This is not Pride. This is remembering our dead. This is not something you can make fucking upbeat and acceptable and call “awareness.”
And yes, today we remember those of us still living–our fear, the fear that lives at the heart of every trans person, that someone will know that we are trans, and will kill us for it. Today we remember all the other times we murmured “oh fuck” as we read the news. Today we discover the deaths we missed, because we couldn’t bear hearing about them anymore for awhile, even though we must. We must.
I hope today to see all of the cisgender members of the feminist and LGBT communities join together respectfully with our transgender brothers and sisters to remember the dead. I hope that we will do it on their terms, and because it is right and not for show. I hope that today, those of us who are cisgender will commit to always doing our best as true allies, and to not acting as appropriators.
The Day of Remembrance is not about being photogenic. It is not about fundraising or lobbying or recruitment. It does not need the HRC.
The Day of Remembrance is ours, and it is sacred. It is the one day we set aside to honor those in our community, overwhelmingly poor trans women of color, who were killed due to bigotry and hatred. It is a single day in the year where we make certain that the names of the murdered are heard and held up, so we can all remember that these people mattered, were real, were loved, and are missed. It’s a day to gather the community together and call attention to the violence directed against us and the caring we have for each other. It came from us. It was built by us. It was never supposed to be flashy or glitzy. It is a solemn mourning for the dead, a place to hold hands, and a promise to those who violence took away from us that we who are still living will hold together, take care of each other, and push forward together into a world where that violence is only a painful memory.
[. . .]
Our community is constantly looking down a gun-barrel, and organizations that don’t honor or support us continually ask for more of our money, our time, our hope, and now, even our events so they can push their own agenda–one that often leaves us behind. It doesn’t just leave us behind deliberately, as in the ENDA fiasco. It also leaves us behind by prioritizing goals that many of us simply don’t have on the radar because we’re too busy surviving. An inclusive ENDA would have helped guarantee jobs and homes for the most marginalized in the queer community, a bare chance to just have a table to put food on, let alone the food. Instead, we’re focusing all of the queer community’s resources on what, marriage equality? That’s a worthy goal. It’s just not on the docket for many of us–working-class queers, queer people of color, trans people–who’re often more worried about keeping our families alive than having full legal equality for those families. That equality would be wonderful, as would the public affirmation of us as full citizens. But those of us who aren’t even considered citizens–those of us who aren’t even considered human, or important enough for an organization that purports to speak for us to advocate for–those of us who are denied votes, livelihoods, and more–we have a much more basic agenda. Make it till tomorrow. Make it till next week. We’re dying out here, this year at a rate of more-than-twice monthly, and we are not such a large community we can afford that. This month alone, as many as six trans people–again, almost exclusively poor trans women of color–were reported murdered, and the month isn’t even over.
And I hope that once the day is over, once the appropriate time has passed, we can all commit to joining together to see these deaths avenged, not with more violence or hate but with justice. I hope that we can join together and commit to doing everything in our power to prevent more names from joining that list.
To those who are gone, I will remember you. To those still with us, I am thankful for you, and humbled and honored to remember with you.