A couple of years ago I wrote that I wanted to move on from the remembering our dead and feeling like I was always mourning as a transgender person. I wasn’t attempting to ignore death or suffering, or our collective pain, but I wondered aloud about the consequences of having our most notable event be our public grief. There are specific deaths that haunt me, like the violent ends of Tyra Hunter in Washington, DC, and Gwen Araujo in California, where my sadness crops up again and again whenever I start thinking about the ease with which people murder my trans sisters. Perhaps however it’s the aggregate of shortened lives, the headlines in alternative media that declare that in 2012, 265 transsexuals–mostly trans women–have died. Or maybe it’s when my brain starts a painful calculation of how many more of us were lost to drug addiction, or medical negligence, or due to homelessness, maybe that’s when I consider screaming. In a culture that so often vaunts itself as “pro-life,” transgender people are cleanly marked as less than. Otherwise, where is our national outrage? Even young gay men have their celebrity champion against bullying and the damage bullies wreak.
It feels like too much, a lot of the time. But in my next breath I need to acknowledge my middle class status, privilege of whiteness, and the reality that I am mostly safe and definitely supported by the community at large where I live, despite my openness as a trans man. If I am ready to push past the Transgender Day of Remembrance, I’m leaving it to those more vulnerable than me to keep the mantle held high. Yes, I’ve mourned the losses of my chosen family since I came out as queer in 1991–to AIDS, to self-loathing, to fear, to violence, to chemical dependence–but I can’t walk away from bringing these atrocities to light, to larger audiences.
I’m sorry I said I wanted to focus on happier moments. I do live for the sunrise. My sense of humor is finely honed and always ready for use. But eight years in to my transition, through the bleakest moments, I will take time tomorrow to remember. My small town has never heard of TDOR, and probably wouldn’t know what to do with it if anyone stood outside at dusk with a lit candle. But I’ll remember, and try to do justice to the community in my own way.
That said, there is life after the vigils. With the presidential election a scant two weeks past–a fortnight!–I turn my attention to the last Obama administration, and I wonder:
- Will we finally get health care reform to improve the lives of gender nonconforming people?
- Will we see any reform for prisoner care so that transgender individuals who are incarcerated aren’t subject to isolation or housing with the wrong gender?
- Will more jurisdictions protect transgender people from discrimination? Will Congress?
- Will we see more work training programs for transgender people? More educational support for trans youth who are so often bullied out of school?
- Will more homeless shelters provide accommodations for transfolk, instead of telling them to go away?
Will our allies coalesce around transgender issues and needs and call their elected Representatives and Senators that these developments are important to them? Will they go to local TDOR events and be visible beacons of support?
I put myself out there because these are my people, my friends, my chosen family. I mentor, I whine, I write, I try to make people laugh, I volunteer my time, I bake. Whatever your skills are, make them available to others, please. Remembering our lost ones is so important, but I would love to see a smaller list on display next year, and the year after that.
I promise, I am no one special. I’m not particularly fit or smart or compassionate. I get just as annoyed at drivers on the road as the next person. If I can push myself to make a positive difference, so can most other people. If the political climate insists on divisive rhetoric, we needn’t care–be here for the ones asking for help, be a steady hand to the neighborhood. Go to a community meeting, even if you only like some of the other folks in the room. Skip reading hatemongering blogs, and spend that time getting proactive for the transgender people you know (or don’t know yet). Read our books, buy our art, tell your friends, tell your church, tell your parents.
Laugh with us and cry with us, and be human with us. And yes, please remember us.