Transgender Day of Remembrance

Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day to remember transgender victims of violence. Here’s a list of the people we’re remembering in 2009. Please take a moment to read their names and stories — what is known of them — and think about these people, mostly young women, who suffered often exceptionally brutal violence for their gender identity or presentation.

But don’t stop there. It’s important to have a day to remember the dead, who are often in danger of being ignored, but there are victims of anti-trans bigotry every day, and that bigotry is also ignored or glossed over or made light of or even lauded. Liss at Shakesville wrote about how TDOR is about remembering the victims of discrimination and indifference as well as the victims of anti-trans violent crime:

Lacking federal employment protections, transgender men and women are at higher risk for lack of insurance, adding to the difficulty of securing routine medical care from welcoming practitioners. Transmen, for example, frequently have trouble locating accommodating gynecological services for annual pap smears, risking undiagnosed cervical cancer. The great 2001 documentary Southern Comfort spans the last year in the life of Robert Eads, who died of ovarian cancer after two dozen doctors refused him treatment.

That’s the kind of hate crime that doesn’t make headlines. Or even federal hate crimes statistics.

We remember all the victims of violence and apathy today.

Kate wrote about TDOR at Broadsheet, and highlighted the fact that many of the violence victims were members of multiple oppressed groups — not only were they trans, but most were women and many of those with photos seem to be people of color. She quotes Queen Emily at Questioning Transphobia, who writes:

So it seems to me that to unite all trans people under one banner ignores the specifics of death – sex (the majority are trans women), race (Latina and black), class and occupation (sex work) are as important factors as transness.  Appropriating those deaths for political work seems dubious to me at best.

Queen Emily goes on to say, though, that while transphobia may not be the only contributing factor in these murders, it adds an element of silencing that TDOR is designed to counteract:

So what I want to acknowledge is that there’s a paradox, that no trans person can truly witness for the murdered–especially those we’ve never met.  And yet, with due caution, I think we should.  Not to further our own goals, not to get legislation passed that protects only the already-privileged or to wallow in self-pity, but to honour the memories of every single trans person murdered this year, and to acknowledge the violence that our community lives with as a whole.  To acknowledge that even in death, transphobia and cissexism mean that the murdered are not properly remembered, not even by the correct names and pronouns–and those people should be remembered as the right sex.

I’d add, for our cissexual readers, that the prevalence of intersecting oppressions in murders of transgender people, while it in no way lessens the need for transgender victims to have their own dedicated day of remembrance, should also remind us that standing for social justice means standing together, even (especially) with groups who are often still being relentlessly othered even by progressives.

I want to close with a link to Gudbuytjane’s terrific post about her struggle to come to terms with TDOR, because I basically just want to quote the whole thing:

I used to distance myself from the Trans Day of Remembrance. It made me angry, and in ways I couldn’t discuss with my mostly cisgender community (as some of that anger was directed at them, inevitably). … So I kept away, head down and earphones in as November 20th snuck past my peripheral vision, exhaling only when it was gone for another year. Still, on my own I found myself on the internet, reading the stories of the dozens of trans women who are brutally murdered every year. I learned their names and their faces, and soon this cisgender dominance began to slip. I felt myself reclaiming my own experience of the day, my relationship to these women who died, and ultimately my responsibility to them. …

In the face of a cisdominant culture that enforces false narratives to keep trans women marginalized, it is imperative we make our voices heard. I’ve written about this before, and I believe it is an essential process for dismantling cissupremacy. The most important voices to be heard are our dead, and the responsibility for those voices lies with those of us who are still alive. Not for cis culture to consume, not even for ourselves, but for these women who are no longer with us; By giving them dignity we give ourselves dignity, and demand it from a culture which withholds it from us. Even if it is only knowing their name or a tiny bit of their story, it gives back to them some of the humanity their killers took.

Although cisdominant media inevitably focuses on the murders of these women, pieces of the stories of their lives nonetheless get through. This is how she died is supplanted for brief moments by This is how she lived. Amplify that. Know the stories of their lives, and tell the stories of your own. Not just on November 20th, but every day.

Cissexual readers, please let this Transgender Day of Remembrance be a day of transgender awareness, not only of how transgender men and women die but also of how they live, and the silencing and othering they face in both. For trans readers, of course, every day is a day of transgender awareness, but please know we’re with you.

ETA: Just saw a post from Meloukhia that does a better job of what I was saying in my last paragraph than I did.

46 thoughts on “Transgender Day of Remembrance

  1. So it seems to me that to unite all trans people under one banner ignores the specifics of death – sex (the majority are trans women), race (Latina and black), class and occupation (sex work) are as important factors as transness. Appropriating those deaths for political work seems dubious to me at best.

    Marinating in this passage.

    The most important voices to be heard are our dead, and the responsibility for those voices lies with those of us who are still alive. Not for cis culture to consume, not even for ourselves, but for these women who are no longer with us; By giving them dignity we give ourselves dignity, and demand it from a culture which withholds it from us.

    Thank you, Gudbuytjane.

  2. I cried reading the list.

    (Though I do want to mention that transsexual and transvestite are two different things, though, and there seems to be some conflation of the two on the website.)

  3. Though I do want to mention that transsexual and transvestite are two different things, though, and there seems to be some conflation of the two on the website.

    I believe they’re considering “transgender” to encompass transsexual, transvestite, intersex, and genderqueer. That’s also how I’ve usually seen it used.

    Also, good point about Broadsheet comments, AE. Sanity Watchers on those as always, folks.

  4. I had no idea Robert Eads had been refused treatment by doctors – absolutely tragic. Such an inspiring and dignified soul.

  5. Thanks for posting this.

    “(Though I do want to mention that transsexual and transvestite are two different things, though, and there seems to be some conflation of the two on the website.)”

    The inclusion of all transgender people, and of people who may not have been transgender but who were killed due to gender presentation, isn’t a “conflation” but a recognition that the same basic hatred and bigotry motivated the killers. The assholes who kill my sisters do not distinguish between transsexual women and crossdressers. (Also, just as an FYI, in the U.S. the term “crossdresser” is preferred to “transvetite.”)

  6. The assholes who kill my sisters do not distinguish between transsexual women and crossdressers.

    Exactly.

    Things folks can do:

    1. Insist the rape crisis/domestic violence shelters in your area provide services to Transwomen and call them OUT when they do not.

    2. Insist that spaces marked “female” are INCLUSIVE to all females PERIOD.

    3. Unpack cisgender privilege (me too!).

    4. Speak up, particularly within queer spaces, which actively silence and exclude Transwomen. Force them to deal with their hypocrisy.

    5. LISTEN. (me too!)

    6. Deconstruct your language. I don’t say “folks” cause I’m folksy, but with an awareness the feminist discourse as had a long, disgusting history of excluding Transwomen’s voices with essentialist perspectives as it relates to gender.

    Not looking to be Ally Goodkind. I’m working on this shit myself and fuck up, but I am committed to being of some damn use.

  7. Thanks, JSTG. I’ve also noticed a perverse commitment (sometimes in otherwise reasonable people) to believe that people don’t “count” as transgender until they’ve had SRS. Trying to draw a bright line between “transsexuals” and “crossdressers,” entirely unaided by input from the individuals themselves, shades quickly into this kind of scorekeeping.

  8. As an immature asshole not so long ago, I wasn’t so kind to transpeople, in a vague mocking way. Reading this I realized that my attitude was worse than I had thought, I had been providing the foundation for these fuckers in society, allowed them to feel more accepted with their hatred than transpeople ever have. I’m so sorry now, and the first thing I did was change my status on facebook to an announcement about TDOR and a link to the list. Maybe someone else can come to same conclusion I did and it will make things a little bit better.

    Thanks for posting this, it needs to be seen.

  9. And by “those fuckers in society” I meant people who would attack someone simply for their gender presentation, just to be clear.

  10. I’m working on this shit myself and fuck up, but I am committed to being of some damn use.

    I think this might be my new motto. Or mantra. Or both. I’m a good deal older than most of the folks I interact with online (the SSI checks have been arriving for sometime now) and often in need of some serious 101 in the areas of feminism and fat acceptance, but despite being a bit long in the tooth and perhaps out of touch I, too, am committed to being of “some damn use” because if not, what the hell is the point?

  11. Thanks, JSTG. I’ve also noticed a perverse commitment (sometimes in otherwise reasonable people) to believe that people don’t “count” as transgender until they’ve had SRS. Trying to draw a bright line between “transsexuals” and “crossdressers,” entirely unaided by input from the individuals themselves, shades quickly into this kind of scorekeeping.

    (It’s based on literal scorekeeping: the bright line between “transsexuals” and “[crossdressers]” originated with the first medical definitions of real transsexuals who could be allowed to transition vs. fake transsexuals who could go fuck themselves.)

    Transphobia makes it much more difficult for trans people to obtain transition-related and general medical care, and to raise thousands of out-of-pocket dollars. It allows carriers to force transition into the private market. It decreases the number of specialized and educated medical professionals. It obscures vital information from patients and regulators. It turns every associated expense and hassle–like a journey across three states or a week in a hotel–into a frill. And as Liss said, transphobia can make trans people unemployable: uninsured and broke.

    Transition itself–legal, social, medical–is difficult partly because most people who transition have no protection against discrimination or violence. It’s not just a restricted process. It’s restricted through penalties like getting fired, or evicted, or thrown in jail, or killed.

    The SRS standard for legal transition is an additional punishment: it increases vulnerability to bad papers and institutional negligence. It can mean getting fired, or evicted, or thrown in jail, or killed.

    So using SRS to define real transsexual isn’t only essentialist. It doesn’t only make so many people invisible. It implies that this level of transphobia is perfectly fine, natural and just. The TDOR was created to fight that belief.

  12. Thanks, JSTG. I’ve also noticed a perverse commitment (sometimes in otherwise reasonable people) to believe that people don’t “count” as transgender until they’ve had SRS. Trying to draw a bright line between “transsexuals” and “crossdressers,” entirely unaided by input from the individuals themselves, shades quickly into this kind of scorekeeping.

    I’d like to expound on this if I may. “Transgender” is an umbrella term for people who are gender-variant in some way, form or fashion. Whether this is because they’re transsexual, transvestite, crossdresser, androgyne, genderqueer, etc., they’re included under that generalization.

    That said, there ARE differences between these groups, and some of the differences are rather large. When it comes to things like the Transgender Day of Remembrance, these differences aren’t so important because those who would harm or discriminate against transpeople don’t particularly care about the specifics of the person’s gender variance. But when you get into the nitty gritty of it, calling a transsexual person a transvestite, or a transvestite a transsexual person is flat-out wrong. That’s why a lot of people get so worked up about the labels.

  13. 6. Deconstruct your language. I don’t say “folks” cause I’m folksy, but with an awareness the feminist discourse as had a long, disgusting history of excluding Transwomen’s voices with essentialist perspectives as it relates to gender.

    Speaking of: mashing trans and woman together into a portmanteau implies that a transwoman and a woman are not the same thing. That’s why it’s becoming more common to separate “trans” and any noun after it, like “man,” “woman,” and, “people.” Cedar lays out the argument in more detail here:

    http://takesupspace.wordpress.com/2008/10/15/put-the-goddamn-space-in-transwoman-transfeminism-transmasculine-etc-language-politics-1/

  14. The SRS standard for legal transition is an additional punishment: it increases vulnerability to bad papers and institutional negligence. It can mean getting fired, or evicted, or thrown in jail, or killed.

    So using SRS to define real transsexual isn’t only essentialist. It doesn’t only make so many people invisible. It implies that this level of transphobia is perfectly fine, natural and just. The TDOR was created to fight that belief.

    I agree 100% that requiring SRS for these things is stupid, and I don’t think that SRS is any sort of indicator of whether someone is a “real transsexual” or not. However, part of being transsexual IS having the need to change your sex to conform to your gender identity. So if someone does not feel the need and experience the dysphoria, whether or not they act on it through medical procedures, why would they be called transsexual?

  15. I just made my facebook status about the TDOR. I think this may open me up to a certain amount of criticism (a lot of people I know on there are extremely conservative), but I think it’s worth it, damn it.

    I remember using a friend of mine who is trans as an example to people whenever transgender people were brought up at my college. I never said more than her first name, or where she lived, but I think just saying “oh yes, I have been friends with this person since we were in high school, and value her greatly as she was before beginning her transition and as she is now” can really open people’s eyes. I don’t want to use it as a “oh well I have a transgender friend, thus I am enlightened” (especially since I was very horrible to her when she first decided to transition, for many stupid and unhealthy reasons), but since I was (and am) in such a conservative area, I think a lot less people are aware that trans people are people too, and have friends and family just like them. It helps diminish some of the “othering”. Or perhaps just damages my reputation in their eyes, but one can hope. x.x

  16. When I see the names on the list and I read the stories, and then when I crunch the numbers and SEE just how high the occurrence of violent attacks are on people who are Transgender, I just… ugh. While I have not undergone a gender transition, this issue hits me where I live. And I sleep with one eye open.

    Seriously.

  17. Thank you. I have to say, this is the first time i’ve ever really given much thought to transgenders, and the issues they face. The fact that Robert Eads was refused by doctors is absolutely shocking. And that list… i dunno, it was just as eyeopening. I’m babbling, i don’t really have anything to say.

    Has anyone ever heard the song androgynous by the replacements? its a beautiful song.

  18. Thanks piny. Also, just to call out my own language, I used “cissexual” in the post when “cisgender” would have been more appropriate.

  19. The fact that Robert Eads was refused by doctors is absolutely shocking.

    Indeed it is. Along with the violence, there’s the refusal of services. Last year Jennifer Gale froze to death because the homeless shelters refused to house her with other women.

    Really, her death and Eads’ death had to do with justifying deadly discrimination on the grounds that it’s necessary to keep women safe.

    I wasn’t so kind to transpeople, in a vague mocking way.

    Alibelle, if it’s okay for me to ask, will you explain why?

  20. @ Allie

    It’s possible to have a “need” and recognize that the reality of medical technology is just plain not up to fulfilling it, or to have other realities (legal, social, etc.) that conflict with it. I know far more trans men who don’t intend to have their basements redecorated (please excuse the technical medical jargon) than who do… if any of them identify as transsexual, quibbling over that and saying “Well, I’ll give you transgendered but you’re not really transsexual if you can live without a penis.” is creating a sort of hierarchy.

    I usually identify myself as transgendered or just plain trans because it’s not worth it to me to fight for the label of “non-op transsexual”. But I would argue it’s possible to be a transsexual and decide that the best way of dealing with it (or the best way that happens to be open before one) is altering your perception of your body/of sex.

  21. Really, her death and Eads’ death had to do with justifying deadly discrimination on the grounds that it’s necessary to keep women safe.

    But only women with the right chromosomes and genitals.

  22. Thanks for this post, Fillyjonk.

    @Miguel, it’s great that you’ve got some food for thought. Something small to start you out, is that generally “transgender” is an adjective, not a noun.

  23. Thanks for this list — I’m reposting it to FB too, and hoping for just supportive reactions…

    JSTG, I hope it’s not too sub-101 of me to ask, but why is cross-dresser preferred to transvestite as a term? I’m about to consult Google, but I’d be really interested to hear more from you about it too, so long as you don’t mind.

    I’m in the UK, and it had never occurred to me that transvestite might be considered pejorative (although I’ve heard people use ‘tranny’ as an insult). This is making me worry I may well have used it where I shouldn’t have, or where I should have been more thoughtful…

    I’m also wondering if this (my not having considered it, and also transvestite being more common usage than cross dresser here, although I have heard cross-dresser used too) might have to do with the number of famous cross dressing stars, usually comedians, that I can think of in/from the UK. I’m not thinking of comedians who cross-dress for effect, but more of people like Eddie Izzard, who self-identify as transvestites (and EI is clear — has said it in several places, incl his shows — that being a male transvestite doesn’t mean he isn’t straight, but for others it also wouldn’t mean they were or weren’t not-straight… I think he’s commented along the lines of it doesn’t have anything to do with whether he prefers to sleep with women or men, he just likes to dress up in women’s clothes). This is where I think I got my assumptions about ‘tranvestite’ = same as ‘cross dresser’ from, anyway, although I haven’t thought to challenge them until now.

    *Googles*

  24. standing for social justice means standing together, even (especially) with groups who are often still being relentlessly othered even by progressives.

    amen and amen.

  25. Grafton, it wasn’t me thinking that there was something fundamentally wrong, or really being unaccepting in theory. It’s just one incident where I was talking to some friends about a trans-woman that we all knew, but that they had known before she started to transition. One of them wondered aloud if people who hadn’t known her before could tell, and I said that yes you definitely could tell, and I laughed. Looking back and I feel like such an asshole, and when I consider how much more difficult her life has been than mine, all I could think was that I was such a little shit about it. I just try and be better about that stuff everyday, make a little bit of headway. I think I’m getting better. I’m friends with that woman now, and the more I talk to her, the less I can “tell.” She’s just like any other college girl, in that she’s different.

  26. Zenoodle — I am guessing because ‘transvestite’ is a DSM term that means that you’re cross dressing because you can’t get off without doing so.

  27. Grafton, that’s not how I understood transvestitism at all… although thinking about it, I guess I’ve seen it used in specific contexts of (usually) men (often straight ones) cross-dressing, I just didn’t think that it was *necessarily* to do with ‘getting off’. Maybe this is one of those it’s important to learn about the history of the terminology things … I will go and get on with my Google results…

  28. OH…DEAR…GOD…!!! I have just found one intensely rage inducing site describing transvestitism and/or cross-dressing as a genetically linked medical disorder requiring ‘treatment’. Have these people not heard of Foucault?!?! :-(

  29. @Alexandra Erin

    It’s possible to have a “need” and recognize that the reality of medical technology is just plain not up to fulfilling it, or to have other realities (legal, social, etc.) that conflict with it. I know far more trans men who don’t intend to have their basements redecorated (please excuse the technical medical jargon) than who do… if any of them identify as transsexual, quibbling over that and saying “Well, I’ll give you transgendered but you’re not really transsexual if you can live without a penis.” is creating a sort of hierarchy.

    I agree. I didn’t say that people who are non-op are not transsexual, but it’s my opinion that the desire to change one’s body has to be there. One may not act on that desire because of dissatisfaction with the surgical possibilities, health reasons, money, or other things. I don’t at all think there should be a requirement for surgery. But I do feel that not having that desire and experiencing that physical dysphoria is really disqualifies someone from belonging to the transsexual branch of the transgender community.

    The reason I think it matters, though, is that while all of us fight for some form of social acceptance, it’s primarily the transsexual community that requires medical assistance that can be arduous to obtain. So I do think there needs to be some sort of differentiation between the two, and always putting everyone in a single, gender-variant box really glosses over the different needs of everyone involved.

  30. Zenoodle,

    I’m not the best person to answer regarding the usage of crossdresser, as I don’t identify as one and the dynamics of crossdressing are very different for female-to-male spectrum individuals (and the term rarely is applied to trans male folks), but Grafton’s response covers a good part of it. (Also, my trans female spectrum partner suggested that the word’s use in Rocky Horror’s “Sweet Transvite”–a fun movie but one that’s full of trans fail–might be a factor.)

    I’ll also add that, to the best of my knowledge, “transvestite” IS preferred usage in some places outside the U.S.–so it might be the preferred terminology where you are. I can’t say with any certainty, though, I’m afraid.

    snarkysmachine,

    “1. Insist the rape crisis/domestic violence shelters in your area provide services to Transwomen and call them OUT when they do not.”

    The entire list is great, but I think this is a super important one. I’d also add that fighting for employment protections is also a vital component–being unemployed and underemployed leaves people vulnerable, including being vulnerable to violence.

    Allie,

    “But I do feel that not having that desire and experiencing that physical dysphoria is really disqualifies someone from belonging to the transsexual branch of the transgender community.”

    How much dysphoria? Of what type and of what duration? If I can’t stand my chest and want top surgery, but don’t want hormones or bottom surgery, can I be “allowed” into the transsexual club? What if I want hormones but don’t want any surgeries? What if the dysphoria is bad enough that I want hormones but not so bad that I’ll kill myself if I can’t access them? Who gets to decide what level of dysphoria is enough to qualify for transsexualism? You? Me? Harry Benjamin’s ghost?

    There are very real and very important differences within transgender subcommunities, and I don’t deny that’s important to recognize this so that everyone’s relevant issues can be properly addressed. (My first comment in this thread was very specific to TDOR and not meant for addressing trans issues in general, just for the record.) But I’m categorically against anyone deciding who is and who isn’t a “transsexual”–or, for that matter, genderqueer or a crossdresser or transgender–except for that individual deciding for hirself.

  31. Just a general thought. *puts on mod hat*

    I understand the need to unpack our cisgendered privilege, but I believe for this post it imperative we not wade too far into process-y waters.

    This is for folks up thread and is written in the spirit of kindness.

  32. Not sure if anyone mentioned it or not, but Chaz Bono’s interview about his transition on GMA was timely, and I thought he was really eloquent.

  33. Sometimes I get a little tired. Exhausted, really. Repeating the same evidence over and over again, fighting against the tide of ignorance, and sometimes bigotry too. Ignorance plus arrogance plus malice.

    Then I read something like this:
    As an immature asshole not so long ago, I wasn’t so kind to transpeople, in a vague mocking way. Reading this I realized that my attitude was worse than I had thought, I had been providing the foundation for these fuckers in society, allowed them to feel more accepted with their hatred than transpeople ever have. I’m so sorry now..
    or this:
    Like I said before. I fuck up, but I’m open and teachable.

    It gives me hope. Sometimes that’s all I have to live on (I knew one of the victims commemorated in this year’s TDOR you see.)

    I’d like to say thanks to those, and others, who have given me this great gift. And I hope that when I screw up by the numbers, that I have your integrity and humanity too, you’ve set an example to me.

    Hugs, Zoe

  34. The thing I really hate about violence against transgendered people is the victim blaming that goes on so much. I have seen and heard some mind-boggling comments blaming trans women for their own murder, and buying into the whole “trans panic” defence (in a nutshell: dressing murder up as manslaughter because the Poor Cis Straight Guy just panicked when he discovered the gender history of the victim and didn’t realise how hard he struck out. Which I personally think is a load of bullshit.)

  35. I just want to send out a good-vibe thought to my friend Laura who is supporting her wife through mtf transition. And another good thought for said lovely wife who is finally beginning to become what she is in her heart. They have danced boldly and lovingly through every aspect of their marriage and continue with grace through what is often a tumultuous process of change.

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