OPEN THREAD: Transgender Day of Remembrance

Today is the 13th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance. The event, which is observed internationally, was founded in the wake of the 1998 murder of Rita Hester, a trans woman of color. It’s is a day to honor the memories of thousands of people who have lost their lives simply for having the courage to be themselves— victims of pointless and horrific transphobic violence. It’s a time for reflection—both on the how far the trans* community has come in its pursuit of equality and also on how far we have to go before social justice for trans* people becomes reality. Even in 2011, trans* people are routinely attacked, bullied, harassed, and ridiculed, and discriminated against in schools and at work. According a report by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, transgender women accounted for nearly half of all anti-LGBT murders last year. Trans women of color, in particular those who are attracted to men, are especially at risk. Despite all this, many people still find it appropriate to question whether trans* people should be legally protected, including at my alma mater.

Eliminating anti-trans* violence isn’t something that can be achieved by changing discrimination laws, although it’s a step in the right direction. Today is a reminder that we all must take responsibility for combating transphobia. It’s about making our voices heard and taking a stand against bigotry and hatred. It’s about creating a future in which the next generation of trans* kids can feel safe and proud of who they are.

Until then, we must honor our dead. Please feel free to share your stories and feelings in the comments section below.

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I'm a 23 year old femme lesbian living in SF. Once upon a time, I was a USC frat boy ;) I ♥ music so please recommend your favorite artists to me!

annika has written 21 articles for us.

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    A few years ago at a Trans Day of Remembrance event I attended, someone I knew gave a short speech about what it means to be safe–not just physically but also in your own relationships, bodies, communities, etc.–and about how queer people have to look out for each other. We have to stand up for each other and protect each other, because clearly it can be a dangerous world for some folks, especially trans women of color. We have to fight for laws that respect and protect ALL of us.

    What does safety mean on a personal level? If your trans* friend is heading home from a bar or party or somewhere, you could offer to drive or walk them home. If someone discloses that they’re trans, honor and use their preferred names, pronouns, identities–but also ask which words to use in which contexts, so you don’t accidentally out them or put them in difficult situations. If you’re dating someone new, respect their boundaries and identities and find out what’s okay with them. If someone uses transphobic language–even a queer person–call them out on it.

    Those actions may not make up for the sad losses of any trans* people being remembered today, but they might help protect someone else from facing the same fate.

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    Dear readers,
    *trigger warning*

    It was touch and go there for a while, but I’m still here.
    Every year about this time, like clockwork, I fall face first into depression like a 7 year old who gets pushed into a pile of leaves while innocently waiting for the school bus. I grieve for every loss I’ve sustained. I binge, I yell at people, I throw shit around my apartment. I violate my skin in all too common ways. I refuse on principle to cuddle with my kittens. It’s not a fun time for me.
    I tell you all this, dear internet friends, to illustrate the sheer JOY with which I say again, “I’m still here”.

    Don’t cry for me, Earthstraddlers. There are countless other trans* people who can no longer make this claim. They are the ones who couldn’t take the bullying. They couldn’t take the unknowing of where to belong. They could not make it another day or night in sheer and utter loneliness because there was no one in their worlds to show them that they were loved as-is.

    I am blessed enough to have people. My people are family. They’re friends. Some of my people are you. I am thankful for you.

    But for today, I grieve for them, the others. I (hopefully) honor their memory by living through another day and trying to help others like me to do the same.

    TL;DR This just in: I am not dead yet. It’s a good thing.

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    thank you for this, annika

    i’m privileged to have friends and peers who are respectful and curious and inform themselves about trans* issues. it can still be very hard being the only (out) trans* person on my campus. i rely on my forged communities online to keep my calm.

    so this. this is important. thank you for reminding me i’m not alone.

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    “To be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.” – E.E. Cummings

    We mourn the loss and honour the courage of the fallen trans* people who were slain battling for a simple right that so many cis people take for granted: the right simply to be in the world as their authentic selves. Through living in ways true to their self-identity, they demanded to be recognised by their communities as who they were and to be loved for who they were as well.

    We vow to respect their memories by continuing to fight for a world in which trans* people can be themselves without a constant battle, and in which their selfhood is cherished and valued.

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    I recently shared my thoughts about my gender identity with somebody for the first time. It is so difficult to realize all the problems I’m going to face because I exist, and keep on trying anyway. Thanks to all those who share support – it truly helps people like me.

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    In observing the TDOR, I think it’s important to keep returning to WHO is on the list of trans people who’ve died in the past 12 months. 1) They’re all trans women with the exception of one gay man who died while in dressed in drag. 2) Out of 221 people on the list (now 222 with the recent murder of a trans woman in Hollywood, CA) only a few are not persons of color; 3) A large percentage of them do sex work (not all). That doesn’t mean that they all died while doing sex work, but it’s important to acknowledge the intersectionality of being a sex worker, being a trans woman and being on the TDOR list. 4) By far, the majority of them were from Latin America.

    That doesn’t mean trans or gender variant people who don’t fall into those 4 subsections should therefore feel safe, but I also think it’s important for us to focus on the needs of the populations which are really bearing the brunt of this violence and not try to appropriate as our own. I also have a real problem with organizations which are attempting to use the TDOR to fund raise, no matter what their intentions are. The TDOR is a memorial, not a fundraising opportunity.

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      As a “former” sex worker (I say former in quotes because I kind of feel like it carries with you forever) I think it’s unfair to deny other trans people access to TDOR.

      Why? Because trans people face threats to their lives beyond murder/assault, and we as a community do a disservice if we only ackowledge one part of it. We need to think about why so many seem to appropriate TDOR to speak about their fears for their safety and it’s more than just misplaced fear of assault.

      When I was in my early teens, just before I hit the “wall” I attempted suicide a few times and I engaged in a lot of self-destructive behavior. But had I died I wouldn’t have made the TDOR list, not only because I wasn’t an out trans woman at the time, but because my life was taken at my own hands.

      We need to have these discussions, and TDOR is one of the best times to have them. Does it annoy me when privileged trans people appropriate my experience as a sex worker to tell their story? yes. But what, instead, I think we need to do is transform TDOR into something that isn’t going to be hijacked or belittle anyone’s story. TDOR, to me, is about the threat and pain and terror we all feel, or have felt. And no one person’s experience is more important than anyone else’s

      OK, I rambled. But I’m tired of people “white knighting” sex workers as if we’re the only ones with the “right” to speak. To me it’s just as crazy as other people hijacking the narrative.

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        @Random,

        I’m not saying people who are trans women of color (especially those who have/are doing sex work) are the only ones with a right to speak. Everyone needs to speak out about oppression (and there is plenty of oppression other than being murdered… although this is specifically what the TDOR is about). But that IS the population this memorial observance overwhelmingly concerns, and I think it’s a shame when white, genderqueer, college educated FAAB (or, for that matter white, middle-class trans women) make the TDOR about them and don’t focus it on the population which is genuinely being attacked. Do I think trans men and transmasculine people should be involved… of course. But lets stop bringing up Brandon Teena for the umpteenth time because since Brandon died in 1993 (to my knowledge there is only one other trans man on the TDOR list) there have been thousands of trans women of color murdered. Let’s keep it real folks.

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          So, you think it’s inappropriate for trans* legal organizations to fundraise around the time of TDOR so that they can provide free, potentially life-saving legal services for primarily poor trans women of color (which is the majority of TLC’s clientele), but it’s appropriate for you as a white person to use TDOR to bitch on the Internet about how other people aren’t allowed to feel grief or fear for their own lives and how you’re yet again better than every trans* person who writes about trans* issues?

          Your dismissiveness of Brandon Teena’s death is really, really gross. Why do you need to play oppression olympics and spew negativity on a day that is supposed to bring us all together in the community to mourn our dead? Why do you need to always play holier than thou in what you say instead of feeling solidarity with people?

          Annika emphasized that straight trans women of color are the ones who are most hurt by transphobic violence but yet you still look for ways to be angry at your own community because you seem to think that you’re the only one who should be allowed to talk about trans issues. Your bitterness in almost every comment that you make just makes me sad.

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          @Hmmm: I’m not the only one speaking out about the issue of using the TDOR as a fundraising opportunity. Gwen Smith, the founder of the TDOR has as well. As has Ethan St. Pierre, the trans man (whose trans woman aunt was murdered) who currently maintains the TDOR site and keeps the database has criticized this practice. As has Monica Roberts, the best known trans blogger. Nor is TLC the only organization which has used the TDOR for fundraising… the HRC, and GLAAD have as well. I would say none of those organizations are especially focused on the needs of trans women of color (especially those who do sexwork). TLC (a good org which I have volunteered for) is primarily policy/general education-focused, so I disagree with your characterization of what they do. Other organizations like CUAV (Communitees United Against Violence, which does not use the TDOR for fundraising) is more attuned to the issues surrounding the TDOR. There are 364 other days a year to ask for money. The TDOR is intended as a memorial service.

          No one is ‘disrespecting’ Brandon Teena. What happened to him was horrible. But I DO question why the death of a white trans guy from 18 years ago is somehow more important to mention than the thousands of trans women of color who have been murdered since then? Why is he brought up at EVERY TDOR when there are countless cases in this country which are literally un or under reported? Because trans guys and transmasculine peeps need their ‘own’ to feel involved with the TDOR? Is he more important because he already had two films made about his case and several high-profile magazine articles? How many articles or films have been made about Rita Hester, the black trans woman whose murder inspired the TDOR in the first place? Something is very skewed here. Sorry you don’t like me talking about it, but I’m not going to be quiet just to please your sensibilities.

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          My point is that I think TDOR should be widened in scope, otherwise will will always have people co-opting the narrative.

          If instead we remember all those who we’ve lost not just to murder, but to suicide, I think then the narrative can shift and expand.

          There aren’t many days that we have a platform to exclusively discuss trans issues, and the tragic lives taken from us through hate is certainly the top of the list, but we need to also at least give a nod to the other problems.

          I’m just being a pragmatist here, give others a way to tell their own narrative and they wont co-opt mine. :)

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          @Random:

          Suicide is a horrible problem. I have it in my family, have attempted it as a tween and had other trans people in my life who took their own lives. But it’s not the focus of this memorial and I don’t think that focus should be changed because ‘people will usurp it.’ Does that mean Martin Luther King’s B-Day should be changed because stores are offering sales on that day?

          The EXACT reason why it shouldn’t be changed is because there is still a huge amount of racism in the queer/trans communities, and transmisogyny, and classism, and sex worker marginalization (especially with trans women) and until we’re really, genuinely dealing with those issues as well as issues like young transitioners in school, family support, decriminalizing sex work, genuine differences in accessible trans health care and transitional services, queer/trans youth in foster care… then this needs to be focused on the population which bears the brunt of these issues. That’s NOT minimizing other trans people’s tough situations or lives but it is keying in on a shadow population in our community which is being systematically murdered.

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          Morgan Page gave a phenomenal speech that touches on all the things that I think need to be discussed on TDOR.

          http://dandyfied.tumblr.com/post/13100515863/this-is-the-text-of-the-speech-that-morgan-m

          From the end of the speech:

          “Before we read the list of names of the dead, I would like to just remind you all about who is not on this list.

          This list does not include those whose deaths went unreported.

          This list does not include those whose deaths were not considered important enough for investigation by transphobic police forces and media.

          This list does not include the missing and those never reported missing because there was no one to miss them.

          This list does not include those incarcerated around the world for their trans status or sex working profession.

          This list does not include those who take their own lives because they cannot bear to live in a world that wants us dead.

          This list does not include those too afraid of experiencing transphobia from nurses and doctors that they avoid hospitals and die from injuries or illnesses that are fully treatable.

          This list does not include those trans people unable to access shelters who freeze to death on our streets!

          This list does not include those who’ve died of AIDS, nor those who live on and continue to be affected by it!

          This list does not include those being incarcerated for having HIV!

          This list does not include those stab wounds, bullet holes, bruises, cuts, welts, or violations that inflicted such great pain but failed to kill us.

          This list does not include any of these people, but I’m asking you all not to forget these people tonight.”

          I think we SHOULD discuss these things on TDOR because they are a a problem in our community, often problems that are of major importance to a large amount of people and would, frankly, save lives. The idea that we should only think about sex workers of color I think does as much of a disservice as not addressing those who don’t have enough to eat vs. those who have nothing to eat.

          In fact, in many cases addressing the same problems helps everyone. Addressing misogyny and transmisogyny, addressing the hatred of femininity are two things I can think of that address both groups of people.

          While I don’t think that the priorities of some of the privileged few are in sync with the greater needs of the community, I think that there are things that we can all fight for that DO help everyone. And just because we talk about and work on things like fighting misogyny or sex health or dehumanization or whatever the particular fight is, doesn’t mean we’re have to ignore anything else.

          Also, one last thing, I think Morgan is right that these deaths often cause questions. Questions as to if they were murdered because they were trans or if it was because our culture of violence against sex workers or women in general.

          When I was working, I know the people I was least afraid of would harm me because of my trans status were my clients…

          Anyway, I think we’re, in general, on the same page, I just wanted to offer some of my perspective and that I think these conversations need to happen.

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          “Also, one last thing, I think Morgan is right that these deaths often cause questions. Questions as to if they were murdered because they were trans or if it was because our culture of violence against sex workers or women in general.”

          And those are such important questions to ask. There is a lot of intersectionality in these issues and oppressions. But, in pursuing those questions, it’s important to ask why is the rate of murder so much higher among the specific populations in the TDOR list vs. women in general and even non-trans sex workers? That’s not to dismiss the horrible violence the women of this world experience or what sex workers go through, but to think about what the additional element of being trans throws into the mix and how it influences the oppression and these specific crimes of violence on which the TDOR was created to memorialize.

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          …”and don’t focus it on the population which is genuinely being attacked.”

          This is why I can’t see past your language to your point. I have directly experienced plenty of the not so nice side of trans politics and yet I don’t think this is the place to talk about it. This is a thread intended as a memorial. It is NOT in my mind intended to talk about who deserves it more, and YES, that is exactly how I read your words.

          I am trying not to let all my seething rage over this overly color my post but I am fucking sick of being pushed to the side because I am lucky enough to have had, say, a college education. (the fact that I am in a ton of debt or had to fight every step of the way because of mental illness probs doesn’t matter, right?)

          In short your point is in essence correct. We need to be inclusive. But don’t you dare come in to a thread where a lot of us are grieving and tell us how to focus our pain. I am still hurting over this, since I saw your post I’ve been hurting. That isn’t how I should feel in a thread intended to honor trans dead.

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    This is why I am out as trans, because I think silence kills. Because I think it makes one no less their gender just because they’re trans and that’s a perception a lot of people still have. Oh you’re a ‘man’ not a man, or whatever. I think the way to change that is being out. I often wish I could be braver though about my presentation but honestly, I’m afraid down deep inside of what might happen if I were.

    “but I also think it’s important for us to focus on the needs of the populations which are really bearing the brunt of this violence and not try to appropriate as our own.”

    I am sure this isn’t intended as invalidating but as someone with an uncommon gender identity it just feels like it is. We are all subject to violence. We can certainly focus on the groups that might be the most in crisis at the moment but please don’t take away from the group as a whole.

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    I know of another way to help make a difference… there’s a really great transgender support charity right now trying to win $25K in the Chase Giving campaign. It’s free to vote and can make a wold of difference for this cause. just go to the chase giving app in facebook then search for TransYouth Family Allies and vote. then share with your friends so they can vote too… they really need your support right now. thanks :)

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    Well, I’d just like to say my university set up tomb stones around the “pep bowl” (a large grassy area where activities are always happening and just about everyone sees it) The tomb stones had names of transgendered people and how they died… none of natural causes. It was very sad but totally made people wonder what it was. I had the pleasure of telling every class who didn’t know. We also played Brandon Teena’s real documentary in the student center.

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    This always makes me wonder how we are going to solve the problem of the ‘T’ in LGBT being marginalized, even within our own community. Too much predjudice from too many people, some of them the last people who should judge ANYONE. It always takes me a few days to be able to process this, every year.

  11. Pingback: TransSupport.Org | 10 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Started My Transition – TransBliss.com – Transgender Awareness – Gender Identity Resources

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