November is a schizophrenic month for the Transgender community. It begins with Pride, a joyous celebration of who we are, and concludes with a solemn remembrance of our brothers and sisters who fell victim to the violence and hatred that permeates throughout our society.
As I write this article, there are a reported twenty-three transgender souls who were violently taken from us in the United States alone. Nearly as many as 2016, the deadliest year on record. And it’s quite feasible that we might eclipse that horrid record by the year’s end.
An overwhelming majority of those murdered were women of color. Black lives matter. Trans lives matter. Every life matters.
At first glance, twenty-two might not seem like a overwhelming amount of murder victims over the course of a year, especially considering the mass shooting in Las Vegas on one horrific evening this past October. But we must consider that this sociopath shot randomly into a large crowd, with no obvious concern for who he was killing.
On the other hand, the twenty-three Transgender victims were targeted specifically because of who they were. These were hate crimes, not just random violence.
Why is it so important to honor these victims?
Long before these souls became victims of those violent crimes, they were victims of a different kind of injustice. Society despised them, just as much as the murderers who physically robbed them of their lives. In essence, society attempted to kill them by forcing them to deny who they were, and living someone else’s life instead of their own.
But they resisted the pressure, and despite the danger involved, they lived their authentic lives. They led the way for others, so that they may live their authentic lives.
Honoring them each November is our way to thank them for their sacrifices, and to tell them that they are not forgotten.
Hatred and bigotry are not abstracts, you can reach your hand out and feel them in the air. They manifest themselves in the disapproving glares of people you meet, from pandering legislators, and from the preacher’s pulpit on Sunday morning.
Churches should be preaching love, not hate. Politicians should be protecting the rights of all people, not just a few vocal constituents who demand that their rights supersede all others. People should accept others for who they are, not what they are.
One day last year, I spent the afternoon at the LGBT Youth Center on Highland in Los Angeles. I met several teenagers who were living out on the Boulevard, vulnerable to living a life of sex work and addiction. Cast aside by their families, the only hope many of them have is the good and necessary work done by the Center.
These young people, our children, were given death sentences by their families because our sacred institutions teach us to hate, and and told that their lives have no value.
We must resist the bigotry and hatred, but that’s not enough. Resisting implies that we are reacting to something being done to us. We need to be proactive, and not wait until someone does something to us. We need to demand our rights as American Citizens. We need to demand better employment opportunities, and not just menial jobs that hide us in a back room, but rather good paying jobs dealing with the public.
We need to be in the public eye, demonstrating that we are not the stereotypes one sees in a bad 1980s slasher film. We can’t sit in the safety of our warm cocoons, waiting for someone to tell us that it’s safe to come out. We must integrate into society and show everybody just how fantastic we are in our community. They can’t help but love us!
We made great strides in the past decade, largely due to positive exposure in media, as well as the policies of the past administration. Many of these advancements have been overturned by the current administration, whose core base is largely comprised of the evangelical Christian right. We must fight them en masse, and demand that those rights which we fought so hard to gain be restored.
Our community is small, so we need everyone to participate. Call your representatives in government. Write letters to the editor. Show up at Pride and the Transgender Day of Remembrance, or any other event that promotes the Transgender Community. Be active.
Let’s make Sean, Jamie Lee, Mesha, Jojo, Jaquarrius, Tiara, Chyna Doll, Ciara, Chay, Alphonsa, Kenneth, Sherrell, Kenne, Kendra, Ava, Ebony, Tee Tee, Gwenevere, Kiwi, Pepper, Ally, Kashmire, Derricka and Stephanie proud of us, as we are of them.