Today is the Transgender Day of Remembrance, where we honor and remember the transgender people who lost their lives to violence and hatred.
Some call today the Transgender Day of Resilience, but frankly, I don’t always feel so resilient. 2017 has been, with still over a month to go, the most deadly year for transgender Americans on record. Transgender people have been murdered at a rate of over two per month, with most of the victims being black transgender women, some as young as 17. Every time I read a new name, it kills me, but I have come to expect it. I now expect to read at least two new names a month. Two dead transgender siblings of mine, ignored by the media and misgendered by law enforcement. It is heartbreaking and heartbreakingly normal.
But it doesn’t start with murder. It starts with the small stuff. Jokes in comedies about men dressed as women. About genitalia defining gender. Casual conversations in which cisgender men say that they’d never date a transgender woman. Him saying he’d kill her if he found out she was transgender. News outlets like The New York Times and The Washington Post thoughtlessly publishing anti-transgender “opinion” pieces without any fact-checking or accountability. Democratic leaders saying that “identity politics” are a distraction from the “bread and butter issues that matter so much to everyday Americans.” (I’m looking at you, Bernie Sanders.)
Then there is discrimination in housing, healthcare, employment, and everything else. Poverty, homelessness, drug addiction. Being forced into the closet if you want a job, or a home, or access to affordable healthcare. Being trapped in a world that doesn’t accept you simply because of your gender. Being trapped to the point of self-harm, or even suicide.
About half of transgender youth attempt suicide. We disproportionately suffer from mental illness and trauma. And I do mean suffer. While there are some resources, they are limited, especially for transgender people of color.
I do not mean to sound hopeless. I do see a better future for us. A future in which we are better accepted and allowed to live as ourselves. But I do not know when that is coming, and I am sick of waiting and watching. Sick of watching as “allies” pay to read anti-transgender hatred in The New York Times and The Washington Post while giving nothing to organizations that help vulnerable transgender youth. Watching as “allies” befriend and date bigots who misgender transgender people and say in disgust that they would never date us. Waiting for my “allies” to actually DO something, actually take action.
Waiting in fear, because I do not know if I am next.
On this day, we honor the at least 26 transgender Americans who have been murdered this year, as well as countless more who have taken their own lives due to the violence they face each and every day from their classmates, family, teachers, and leaders.
To our allies: Don’t let this be the only day that you read their names and consider our lives. Dedicate yourself to the cause, because for us, this is life or death.
To my transgender siblings: I love you. Remember that no matter how hopeless it feels, we are not alone. Our existence is resistance, and that resistance matters. We are not just numbers or names. We deserve so much better, and together we will fight for a world that loves us as we deserve.
Mesha Caldwell – Mississippi (January 4), 41 years old
Sean Hake – Sharon, PA (January 6), 23 years old
Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow – Sioux Falls, SD (January 7), 28 years old
Symone Marie Jones – Fayetteville, NC (January 12), 19 years old
JoJo Striker – Toledo, OH (February 8), 23 years old
Tiara Richmond/Keke Collier – Chicago, IL (February 21), 24 years old
Chyna Gibson – New Orleans, LA (February 25), 31 years old
Ciara McElveen – New Orleans, LA (February 27), 26 years old
Jaquarrius Holland – Monroe, LA (February 19), 18 years old
Alphonza Watson – Baltimore, MD (March 22), 38 years old
Chayviss Reed – Miami-Dade, FL (April 19), 28 years old
Mx. Bostick – New York City (April 25), 59 years old
Sherrell Faulkner – Charlotte, NC (May 16), 46 years old
Kenne McFadden – San Antonio, TX (June 6), 27 years old
Josie Berrios – Ithaca, NY (June 13), 28 years old
Ava Le’Ray Barrin – Athens, GA (June 25), 17 years old
Ebony Morgan – Lynchburg, VA (July 2), 28 years old
TeeTee Dangerfield – Atlanta, GA (July 31), 32 years old
Gwynevere River Song – Waxahachie, TX (August 12), 26 years old
Kiwi Herring – St. Louis, MO (August 22), 30 years old
Kashmire Redd – Gates, NY ( September 4), 28 years old
Derricka Banner – Charlotte, NC (September 12), 26 years old
Scout Schultz – Georgia Tech campus police (September 16), 21 years old
Ally Steinfeld – Texas County, MO (September 4*), 17 years old
Stephanie Montez – Corpus Christi, TX (October 21), 47 years old
Candace Towns – Macon, GA (October 31), 30 years old