Yesterday was the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR). Its purpose is to highlight the violence experienced by transgender people this past year. There has been 238 transgender, transsexual, and gender nonconforming (trans) people on this years TDOR list, but we will never know the exact number of people killed. What is crucial is to acknowledge that most of the people on this list (and of every list since the Day of Remembrance first started) are trans women of color, many also poor, and many very young (the youngest being 13 years of age). What is also significant is the amount of violence these young people experienced: Multiple gunshots, multiple stabbings, multiple physical blows, and even beheadings. There perpetrators doing vast amounts of damage as if to literally remove any trace of these people from this world. Can you imagine hating someone that much? Can you imagine being on the receiving end of that hate.
One of the first activities I was involved with once I came out as transgender in 1994 was volunteer to help with GenderPAC’s transgender violence study. At the time no one was interested in doing transgender related research. This was also before people noticed that many trans people (especially young trans women of color) were being infected with HIV and dying. I volunteered to do data entry, analysis, and to write up the results of the many surveys sent to me. Over 400 surveys were delivered to my door roughly from 1995 to 1996. Many were pretty easy to deal with if not aggravating (experiences of discrimination, verbal harassment), but there were always a few that talked about the extreme violence they’ve experienced by strangers or by supposed loved ones as well. I never knew about the one’s who were never given the chance to fill out one of our surveys.
1998 was important in that people decided that the trans people who had their lives taken needed to be honored. That was the start of the Transgender Day of Remembrance. I think I’ve been to a ceremony every year (mostly), I’ve even organized a few. Many things have changed. More jurisdictions have established anti-discrimination and hate crimes legislation, even at the federal level there have been some changes that is beneficial to many transgender people. But there are still too many names added to the Day of Remembrance list. There are also those who after failing to turn the tide against same-gender marriage are now turning on the most vulnerable group within the trans community; young trans people. Cristan Williams from the Transadvocate has been very busy detailing the lies and the harassment being done to young trans people (especially young trans women). The issue is whether young trans people will be given the social space to express their identities safely.
This Day of Remembrance I want to remember those who were taken away through such horrendous violence because somebody (or somebodies) did not believe that they deserved to live. I also want to remember those who are still with us but also facing hate and ignorance that may make life unbearable. To both groups, you are in my thoughts.