Thursday, November 19, 2009

Transgender Day of Remembrance

 Today is the Transgender Day of Remembrance. It is the day to memorialize the people who had died as a result of anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. It's a day to remember people who have been killed quietly, targeted easily due to the transphobic nature of today's society that still refuses to acknowledge the humanity of people who transition from one biological sex to another.

There are many explanations for these crimes. "Gay panic" and "trans panic" are still considered reasonable explanations for acts of violence visited on these marginalized people. That transgendered people are marginalized makes them easy targets for crimes that will go unaddressed and unpunished. That transgendered people are victims of high crime rates as opposed to any other gendered group goes unnoticed by most people. Their names disappear into the darkness, forgotten.

Why are they killed? 

These people were killed for being trans, or suspected of being trans. They were killed on account of something that is part of their identity. It's akin to being targeted because one is gay, or one is Asian.

For all the clever arguments that prosecutors can come up with, for all the lies people tell themselves to minimize the crime, it still boils down to the fact that people react violently to those they perceive as Other. Because, as always, an Other is a threat to one's peace of mind.

It seems everytime I write about this, it's me repeating myself, but it seems there's no help for it but to reiterate more and more: when a transgendered person dies, another human life is extinguished. When a single human life is destroyed as a result of hatred, fear, prejudice, it is a human rights issue, a concern belonging to all of society.

We (meaning I, and many other cisgendered people like myself) go through life capable of ignoring the threat of violence and death that many transgendered people live with. For us, such troubles, of prejudice due to our identities, are only philosophical exercises, and we don't have to care, because we do not have transgendered people in our immediate vicinities. None of my cousins are transgendered. Not my brother. Not my parents. Not anyone I know of personally.

But we let that "not one of ours" get in the way of our memory too often. We forget that there are people dying everyday for reasons completely unrelated to us, horrific deaths that should not have happened. It's easy to see why - it's distressing to remember this fact, that the people we love could be at risk of death at the hands of violence, visited upon them for some reason integral to their humanity. We cut the rest of the world off because it's easier that way.

It is so difficult to be connected to the rest of the world. It's exhausting, it's upsetting to cry over someone who we don't even know.

But someone has to - mourn our dead because they are part of our dead too, remember their names and faces, remember who they were when alive, why they died, and it is this remembrance that gives us the resolve to carry on fighting for this cause so that no one would have to die anymore.

It's easy for me to say, because I'm a cisgendered woman, who calls herself an ally, and I sign petitions and I write blogs and I talk about these issues in company who probably doesn't want to hear it. I can light a candle today, and I will.

Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance, for those who have lost sisters and children, friends and family, and to remember the people who have died because others could not control their hate and fear.

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