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.