Tuesday, November 20, 2018

A Candle for the Forgotten and Despised —Transgender Day of Remembrance

Maybe because their names and faces get lost in the grim glut of crime reporting. Maybe because no one knew their story—or their secret.  Maybe it’s because the Guardians at the gate want to protect our tender sensibilities.  Maybe it’s because outside of “those people” no one cares.  Or maybe it’s because some see a kind of rough justice acted out on the streets and prefer to let it go on as they used to whistle-by-the-graveyard the dark at lynchings that kept Black folk in their place.
But someone must remember these Transgender people murdered every year simply because of who they are.  According to transrespect.org :
… a total of 369 cases of reported killings of Trans and gender-diverse people between 1st of October 2017 and 30th of September 2018, constituting an increase of 44 cases compared to last year’s update and 74 cases compared to 2016. The majority of the murders occurred in Brazil (167), Mexico (71), the United States (28), and Colombia (21), adding up to a total of 2982 reported cases in 72 countries worldwide between 1st of January 2008 and 30th of September 2018.
The actual numbers are likely higher.  There is no uniform reporting of crimes against trans and gender-diverse people ranging from those who have completed surgical reassignment, those who identify with a gender other than the one assigned at birth, those who embrace gender ambiguity, cross dressers, and drag performers who may be perceived as trans regardless of their orientation.  Many police reports identify victims only by their genitals and, especially in urban, crime plagued areas, most murders not involving children, multiple victims, or white, or prominent victims are not poorly covered by the press.

Levels of violence have risen in the United States but there is antidotal evidence that the general rise of intolerance and hate crimes fostered by Donald Trump, his Republican Party, and semi-hysterical right wing Evangelicals has disproportionally affected those who are identified as Transgender, especially Blacks, Latinos, and other minorities due to the double-whammy of the rise of White Nationalism.

Haters respond to none-to-subtle cues from the Administration and Republican state legislators.  For example The Trump administration plans to define transgender identity “out of existence” and erase civil rights protections for LGBT people. 

According to a horrifying report from New York Times the Trump administration is considering narrowly defining gender as a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth, the most drastic move yet in a government wide effort to roll back recognition and protections of transgender people under federal civil rights law

Just last week the Justice Department rescinded Obama era protections for Transgender individuals in prison despite irrefutable evidence that placing prisoners in general populations based solely on birth genitalia is an open invitation to assault, rape, and even murder—precisely the outcome recently ousted Attorney General Jeff Sessions had in mind.

Meanwhile those red state legislatures are working over-time on their own attacks including ludicrous Bathroom Bills, removing protections of trans students in schools, and blocking or stripping out existing inclusion in hate crime laws.

Black Trans women are over represented by percentage of the population among American victims.  Often tenuous and sometimes strained relations between activists in the Trans, Black, Gay, and feminist communities have sometimes stood in the way of common action and protest.
Perhaps ironically the International Transgender Day of Remembrance had its origin with the murder of Rita Hester, transgender African-American woman murdered in Allston, Massachusetts on November 28, 1998
Like so many memorial days do, an outpouring of community grief and anger led to a candlelight vigil held the following Friday, December 4 with 250 people in attendance. 

An international Transgender Rememberence Day vigil
That vigil inspired the Remembering Our Dead web project and the International Transgender Day of Remembrance.  Gwendolyn Ann Smith, a transgender graphic designer, columnist, and activist helped organize the first public vigil in honor of all victims the next year in San Francisco in November of 1999.
Since then, the observation has spread across the world. By 2010, the occasion, now held annually on November 20, was observed in over 185 cities in more than 20 countries.  Many more will be observed this year.

Unitarian Universalist have widely supported Transgender Day of Rememberence.
 Many local, national, and international organizations now participate in and promote the Day of Remembrance.  I am proud to say that the Unitarian Universalist Association and the Love Resists campaign formerly known the Standing on the Side of Love have played a leading role.  Many UUA congregations include some part of their services this time of the year to the memorial.
Folks in McHenry County, Illinois can join a vigil sponsored by Woodstock Pride from 5:30 to 7 pm on Woodstock Square.

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