On Trans Day of Remembrance We Look Back on the Worst Year Yet and Prepare for a Terrifying Future

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I’m writing this with tears streaming down my cheeks, a sick feeling in my stomach and a hole in my heart. I’m sorry I don’t have have something more hopeful to tell you today.

Every year Trans Day of Remembrance is a tough day. It’s hard to think about all the trans people we’ve lost. It’s hard to think about how we don’t even know the names of many, many more who were killed and misgendered or unreported. Every year, both in the United States and globally, most of the victims of anti-trans murders are Black and Brown trans women. Last year was exceptionally hard for a lot of us, because more trans women were murdered in the United States than any previous year on record. We were heartbroken and devastated. We felt hopeless. But we also were determined to be strong and to fight to make things better and to protect trans women, especially Black and Brown ones, and to make sure the United States was a safer place for trans women.

We were determined to keep in mind the intersectionality that puts trans women in danger. We wanted to focus on how racism and anti-Blackness contribute heavily to the murders of trans women, how most trans women who are killed are murdered by men they sleep with, how trans women who are poor or sex workers are more likely to be murdered. We talked about all of those things. We said something needed to be done to stop the most vulnerable from being killed at pandemic rates.

In 2016, the murders didn’t stop. The violence didn’t slow down. Instead here we are in November, and more trans people have been murdered in the US than were murdered last year. The numbers globally are even worse. Our goals were not met. Trans people are in the spotlight more than ever, with characters in movies, TV shows and books, but that’s only led to us being more at risk. Trans women, especially the ones who were already most at risk, are now hypervisible. Men who sleep with us are more afraid than ever that they’ll be found out. Politicians who hate us are targeting us in ways they never have before. People who want to commit violence against us are braver than ever before. Things aren’t getting better, they’re getting worse.

These are the names of the trans people we know of who were murdered this year, but only those we know of. We cannot forget them. We cannot ignore them. We cannot sweep them under the rug. If you have the strength, please fight for them and for the people who will be on this list next year, and the year after that. Contact your congresspeople, donate to trans organizations, call out transphobia and transmisogyny when you see it, volunteer your time. Don’t just talk about being an ally, actually do the work.

Monica Loera, 43

Jasmine Sierra, 52

Kayden Clarke, 24

Veronica Banks Cano, 40

Maya Young, 25

Demarkis Stansberry, 30

Kedarie/Kandicee Johnson, 16

Kourtney Yochum, 32

Shante Thompson, 34

Keyonna Blakeney, 22

Reecey Walker, 32

Mercedes Successful, 32

Amos Beede, 38

Goddess Diamond, 20

Dee Dee Dodds, 22

Dee Whigham, 25

Skye Mockabee, 26

Erykah Tijerina, 36

Rae’Lynn Thomas, 28

T.T., 27

Crystal Edmonds, 32

Jazz Alford, 30

Brandi Bledsoe, 32

Noony Norwood, 30

I’m not trying to make anyone feel guilty. I’m not saying that anyone should give up. I’m not saying to lose hope. There are plenty of people who have fought tooth and nail, and given up gallons of blood in this fight. If you’ve been fighting, if you’ve been working, thank you. But, also more of us need to work, and more of us need to fight. And we need to figure out new ways to do those things. We need to figure out how to make sure that white people and men and conservatives lose the power they abuse. We need to figure out how to make sure our hope turns into progress and protection.

I’m going to be honest. I think this is only the beginning. Our nation just elected a president and vice president who have already started the work to roll back protections for trans people. Not only that, but their public unrepentant homophobia, racism and violence against women is emboldening many across America to no longer hide those violent parts of themselves. I’m preparing for this year’s record to be shattered next year, and each year that Trump is in office. When people say we need to give him a chance, that if he’s really this terrible, we can vote him out after four years, or even impeach him after one, what I think of immediately is the thirty or forty or fifty or sixty trans people who are going to die each of those years because that will be the reality of Trump’s America.

Trans people, including trans kids have started killing themselves in order to make sure they don’t face a more violent fate at the hands of someone emboldened by our new administration. Trans children are so scared of the sixty million people who voted for Trump that they’ve decided that being dead is a better option. How did we get here? No, we’ve always been here. This is a nation of slavery, of genocide, of lynchings, of legal rape, of internment camps, of hate crimes and conversion therapy. This is a nation where a rapist is elected president. This is a nation where someone who wants to torture children until they hate themselves is elected vice president. This is nothing new for us, no matter how much we’d like to say it is. This is the direction we’ve been heading in since white people came to this country.

I’m not going to call these dark times. These are the palest of times. America is a pile of pale, broken bones, the bones of Black people murdered by police, the bones of immigrants murdered for coming to this country, the bones of children and church-goers and people out trying to have a good time who were brought down by mass shootings, the bones of Muslims murdered for not being Christian, and the bones of trans women murdered for existing in public. There is a cloud of smoke rising up from the fires of hatred lit by those who hate marginalized people. White Supremacy and White Christianity and White Conservatism teach Americans that it’s not only acceptable to hate all of these groups, but that it makes you more of a man, it makes you more of an American, it makes you more of a Good Person.

I don’t know how to be hopeful right now, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop writing or working or fighting, and I know everyone at Autostraddle stands firmly with me. I’m not asking other trans people to stay fighting with me, take care of yourself first. But I do ask that you at the very least stay alive. We need you. If you are feeling hopeless or need help, please reach out to someone or call the Trans Lifeline at (877) 565-8860 in the US or (877) 330-6366 in Canada. The Trevor Project can be reached at 1-866-488-7386, and they also have text and chat lines. The general National Suicide Prevention Hotline for the US can be reached at 1-800-273-8255.

You are beautiful and wonderful and deserve happiness and life and love. We love you and we’re going to keep on working and we’re going to figure out how we can do things that will make real change.

Mey Valdivia Rude is a bisexual Latina trans woman living in Los Angeles. She's a writer, comic consultant and a trans activist. She's a bruja, a femme, a pop princess and she loves comic books, witches, dinosaurs and crying. She has a cat named Sawyer and a very successful twitter.

Mey has written 575 articles for us.

32 Comments

  1. I love you, Mey. I am proud to fight beside you. I will never back down or slow down. I will never stop. I stand with you and with every trans woman. I will work every day to make the world safer and warmer for you. I love you, I do, I love you.

  2. I am commited to action. I stand with the vulnerable. I work in behavioral health and I commit to ensure it remains a safe space for all, I commit to donate small amounts I can afford to help organizations, to write letters and speak up at thanksgiving.

  3. My heart breaks so much more today. Even so, I’m incredibly grateful to you Mey; I’m glad you’re always writing and sharing here, even when the world is so harrowing. Especially when the world is so harrowing.

    <3

  4. Rest in peace, sisters. I’ll give you all I got until I have nothing left to give. I’ll make sure I protect myself so I keep fighting on. I’ll remember your legacy and spread the unambiguous truth that transgender people deserve to live free from violence like anyone else.

  5. This stories break my heart.

    I have mentioned before not being out as a trans yet. Mostly because of my own money issues and living with my parents. Who are close to the type of white voter Trump targeted in his campaign. The amount of hatred and just pure awfulness that has come out of their mouths is astounding.

    And yet, in spite of them and in spite of the election, I do feel hopeful. I feel like we as a collective community will fight back against this display of hatred and awfulness because we must. For those who are no longer with us because of violent hatred. For those of us who are here figuring out what to do next. And for those of us in the future.

    Personally, I do not know when I will transition. I do not know what Trump, Pence, and their cronies and flunkies and sycophants will do. But I have hope. I have a voice. And I plan to fight back with everything I can.

  6. I am 50, cys-gender and moved to Alabama from the Midwest 3 years ago. I think of myself as being both open and tolerant, but here in the South trans people are so far underground that it’s hard to find them to be supportive. I belong to an open and welcoming UU church (with an active LGBT support group), where I have become friends with people from a wide age spectrum in the choir. In 2015 one of our 20-ish choir members took her own life. It wasn’t until we were preparing for her funeral that many of us learned that “Bailey” was hoping to transition to “Alex.”
    She was white, middle class and earning a degree, but the hostile home that she shared with her Born Again Christian brother and his wife left little opportunity to be the person she wanted to be.
    It was so difficult for me to sit and listen to the brother speak at her memorial service, focusing on young adults’ struggles with depression, rather than the intolerant world we live in. I wish I had been able to move past my resentment to offer him a hug or some words of comfort for his loss. I know he did not mean to intolerate his sibling to death.
    What can we do for folks like this? A safety pin doesn’t feel like enough.

    • From my perspective, don’t sympathize with the people that bullied someone to death. You don’t actually know if he meant to bully them into suicide or not. I’ve known “born-again Christians” who would absolutely approve of something like that. I’ve heard “let Jesus take them home before they do any more damage here on Earth” and other horrible statements praying for the deaths of those they disagreed with.

      The brother and his wife aren’t the victims here. They don’t deserve pity. They don’t deserve your comfort or affection. Alex deserved to live.

      You’re right: A safety pin ISN’T enough. Your church could have helped Alex with a living situation, with medical and legal fees for transitioning, with any sort of awareness that such help and acceptance was available so that they didn’t need to despair. I’m not saying this to make you feel guilty, but to give you ideas going forward. It’s one thing to say your church is accepting and it’s another thing entirely to truly live it.

    • Welcome! I’m sure others will have plenty to add here, but here’s what I would suggest as a start: Educate yourself and those around you. Be a vocal and visible presence for trans rights, online and in real life – like you say, you never know who might be listening who needs to hear that you are showing up for them. Address hate speech each and every time you hear it. Consider involvement with the LGBT group in your church, either as a queer person or as a straight ally (I’m not sure if you’re queer or already involved in it – and I’m not sure if it’s really an lgbT group? Are there trans or gender nonconforming people in it? Is the culture within the group welcoming to them?). Find your nearest LGBT center, if there’s one nearby – even small towns sometimes have them – and get involved. Treat every person you meet like a person, first and foremost, of course – realize ‘folks like this’ are really just folks like us, only, they are facing the systematic denial of their human rights and live under threat of violence every day of their lives. Work to incorporate trans-friendly language and practices into your business/hiring practices/etc if you are in a position of power at work. When you patronize businesses, ask them if they have considered making their single-use bathrooms gender neutral, and direct them to Ourrestroom.com for more information. Annnnnd if you have the resources, do research in your area to determine where your donations would be best used, and make them regularly. 💙💙💙

  7. Without motives being established we just feed the fear. This is really all dangerous for young people struggling to come out. As an adult ftm I feel personally that these stories just contribute to fear.

      • Mey that is beyond hurtful. As a man who was socialised as female for their entire young life I’m not exactly your average cis man.
        I want to make life better for young trans kids, not terrify them. We have an intersectional approach to everything, why not this? Why not examine the reasons for the deaths, so we can make life better? I’m really hurt Mey. I really expected better from you.

        • Yes, you’re trans. Yes, you still have some male privilege. The reasons ARE examined, but you’re choosing to ignore Mey and denigrate her. Again, remember you’re trans. This article is for TDOR. Please… don’t be this way.

        • henryd, when someone asks you to “check your privilege” it’s not meant to be an insult, they’re simply asking you to take a step back and re-examine the issue, as your privilege may be causing you to overlook certain issues as you haven’t experienced them yourself to the same extent.

          That being said, I find the “man who was socialised as female” argument a bit problematic, as TERFs use that same socialization argument as reasoning for why trans women shouldn’t be allowed into women’s spaces or acknowledged as “real women.” I’ve also heard trans men use the socialization argument right after they’ve been called out for a misogynistic comment or action. If we’re going to accept trans women as women and face similar issues other women face, then we can’t keep pretending trans men don’t have male privilege.

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