Transgender Day of Remembrance is a call to action! Since 1998, transgender advocates and allies have reserved a day in November to commemorate the lives of transgender people we have lost to anti-transgender violence. Known internationally as Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR), this observance has served as a beacon of hope to all the brave souls who have stood, and continue to stand, in their truth, and as a call to action for the trans community and our allies.
Sadly, we are faced with the stark reality of a society in which certain lives have less value, and where basic human dignities are stripped away with hatred. Violence against transgender individuals is not uncommon in many communities across the United States and, unfortunately, the litany of people who have been unfairly targeted because of who they are or how they look, is growing. According to the most recent data from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) as many as 30 transgender people were murdered in 2011, most of whom were transgender African-American women, marking the highest number of reported anti-transgender murders ever reported by the organization which has been tracking hate violence for more than a decade.
Given current social trends, we are constantly reminded of the atrocious disregard and lack of respect for the transgender population. In fact, the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) released an unprecedented survey of 6,450 respondents highlighting violence and discrimination faced by transgender and gender, non-conforming people. Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey (2011), listed “hundreds of dramatic findings on the impact of anti-transgender bias”. It concludes that “people of color fare far worse than white participants across the board, with African American transgender respondents faring far worse than all others in most areas examined”.
We can change this.
Though solemn and reflective, TDOR marks the closing of one door and the opening of another. As family members, friends, and community leaders gather each year to mourn our losses, we are presented with an opportunity to connect and to collaboratively build a world in which every person is respected for who they are.
As a trans woman of color, I am persuaded that we can increase awareness and visibity; and, thus, promote tolerance and understanding within our communities. We can start by making our churches, schools, and work place more “user” friendly, and simply allow people to walk in their truth. When someone enters a sanctuary to worship, we must realize their right to peacefully assemble deserves just as much respect as our own. Hence, it is not okay to create an unwelcoming environment in a place designed and designated to strengthen your soul and spirit.
Also, our institutions of higher education should be free of bullying and intolerance. Disrespect among teachers, staff, and students should be prohibited. Furthermore, it is impossible to establish a productive and profitable workplace in a hostile environment. There is no room for harassment or “teasing” on the job and, thus, it must all come to an end.
In short, we must always take notice and remain cognizant of the gender in which an individual identifies and presents. By using correct pronouns and seeking to educate ourselves on issues of diversity and expression, we take limitations away from our own pre-conceived notions of gender expectations, and roles.
While paying homage to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, we are yet reminded of the horrific plight of a legion of men and women who would dare challenge the status quo. As the candles blow out and the vigils of this year's Transgender Day of Remembrance end, let us renew our call of service to others. Remember, we are only as strong as the perceived "weakest" among us. Affirming and uplifting trans people can only strengthen our faith and our belief in the Divine.