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We Are Whole, We Are Beautiful: Transgender Day of Remembrance 2014

November 20, 2014

“How could anyone ever tell you , you were anything less than beautiful; how could anyone ever tell you, you were less than whole….”

With the words of Libby Roderick’s lovely and poignant anthem playing in the background, I spent last evening completing my PowerPoint presentation for tonight’s Transgender Day of Remembrance service in Minneapolis, an event held in locations across the country each year on November 20. On this day we gather as a community to acknowledge the humanness of our trans brothers and sisters, and to mourn those who’ve died from anti-transgender violence.

Barbara Satin, founder of Twin Cities Transgender Day of Remembrance and National LGBTQ Task Force Assistant Faith Work Director

The Task Force’s Barbara Satin, founder of Minneapolis/St.Paul Transgender Day of Remembrance 

This year there are 81 people we will be memorializing – 81 trans people from 8 to 55 years old – who lost their lives just for being their beautiful selves, just for being their whole person.

I have convened this particular TDOR event for the past 15 years and I am always struck by how difficult, yet powerful this gathering is.

Why have thousands of trans and trans allies gathered in public squares, churches, government buildings across the globe to for the past 16 years for this day of remembrance?

To me, the answer lies in the short snippets of information we have about each of these trans victims as we listen to the reading of their names.

For some we have a few brief notes and newspaper accounts about their life and passing; for others we have just a few sentences. Many died in horrendous fashion laid out for us with graphic descriptions.

There was Betty Skinner, a 52-year-old disabled trans woman from Cleveland who on December 4, 2013 was killed by blunt force trauma to the head; and a day later in the same city, Brittany Stergis, a 22-year old African-American trans woman, was shot in the head.

Violence in Cleveland: Trans Women Killed in Separate Attacks: pictures of Brittany Stergis and Betty Skinner

Brittany Stergis and Betty Skinner

And then there was Alex, an 8-year-old child beaten to death by the father for refusing to get a hair cut, for liking women’s clothes and for enjoying dancing. This is just a brief example of the brutality that these 81 individuals had to endure at the hands of their killers.

Even sadder are those who died alone and unknown. While we know how they were killed, we know nothing at all about their lives and aspirations, except that they were murdered for being trans – for being their whole selves.

“How could anyone ever tell you , you were anything less than beautiful; how could anyone ever tell you, you were less than whole….” 

However, rather than immobilizing us with sadness, I have found the Transgender Day of Remembrance to be a catalyst for our community.

Yes, we cry tears and hug each other for comfort. But we also walk away stronger for the sense of community that we have experienced, more committed to take action – in our own ways – to honor the lives we have lost and to also make our trans communities more visible and more secure.

2 transgender women of color standing in solidarity with message "Remember Trans Power"

Poster by Micah Bazant to commemorate Transgender Day of Remembrance 2014

Many of us are are called to take to the streets to take action to stop these senseless murders, to voice our indignation and ensure our voices are heard – heard by the systems and cultures that must change before these senseless killings cease. The National LGBTQ Task Force has been working mobilize and coordinate transgender activists through our #StopTransMurders campaign we launched this past September. As part of this campaign, we supported the first-ever National #TransLivesMatter Day of Action held earlier this week on November 18. Taking action also means working from the inside to change the systems and cultures that oppress transgender people.

No matter how you choose to take action, let your energies, voices and words be translated into programs that will make our lives known and understood. Find a venue where your passion for trans equality can have an impact whether that is direct service, political advocacy, faith work, education, or other venues.

“We will remember” is what we say in unison in our Twin Cities TDOR gathering in response to the reading of each name. It is both a literal and figurative answer to each of the tragedies just recalled for the participants.

It is a literal expression that comes to life in the way we take these lives and tragedies into our hearts, and let them guide us in our work for trans equality in the places where we live, work, play, pray and/or gather for community.

Come join us – find the Transgender Day of Remembrance in your community (http://tdor.info/) and participate – then take action.

How could anyone ever tell you

You were anything less than beautiful?

How could anyone ever tell you

You were less than whole?

How could anyone fail to notice

That your loving is a miracle?

How deeply you’re connected to my soul?

by Barbara Satin, National LGBTQ Task force Assistant Faith Work Director

One Comment leave one →
  1. November 21, 2014 10:18 am

    Reblogged this on The Progressive Democrat.

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