I was a speaker at our local LGBTQIA+ community center's vigil for Transgender Day of Remembrance this year. Below are some of the reflections I shared as an introduction and welcome.
I’ve been out in an affirming way as a genderqueer person since 2007. And I love it, I love myself, and I love this beautiful community of trans and gender-nonconforming folks. I love how being genderqueer has shaped how I experience and understand the world, and the way it helps me connect and care for people. It is a wonderful gift, and I am grateful every day for it.
But there is also this grief that goes with it, a persistent awareness of the suffering that makes it necessary to have a Transgender Day of Remembrance every year. Those of us who are here already know it; we know it painfully well. This is the day when we put into words and actions the silent grief that follows us every day. We name the names of those who have been murdered because someone hated them for simply being themselves. Each year, the list takes us around the world. This year, two of those names are of people who lived and died here in Missouri, Kiwi Herring and Ally Steinfeld.
Our grief is also for those in our family whose names are not on the list. Too many of us suffer from suicide, domestic violence, violence not considered hate crimes, and deaths that also come out of the suffering of being hated and rejected by the world: drug overdoses, dangerous decisions of desperation, and the intersections of oppression with race, gender, and class. We would be remiss if we did not acknowledge that trans women of color are especially at risk in a world overflowing with patriarchal, racist, classist violence. There are too many of their names on this list, and we have failed them the most. We must ask, what beautiful and powerful actions can be born of our grief and our rage?
Because there is another kind of grief that we must acknowledge and address if we don’t want to get stuck. We grieve that in a world that could be filled with such tender and beautiful love, with kindness and welcoming, with celebration of equality in community, too many of us are left with a menu of fear, rage, numbness, isolation, and despair. Too many of us have had to say goodbye to our families and friends, people and places where we should have found love, but found rejection or worse instead. Too many of us have been without a home, without a job, without medical care, without food, and without companionship, simply because we are trans or gender-nonconforming. Too many of us have to be on guard all the time, always wondering if there was a hidden meaning in what was said, if it’s safe to dress the way we like to dress, if it’s better or worse to keep our identities secret or spoken, or if it’s possible for us to even face another day with the shadows hanging over our heads.
We often say that there is not one way to be trans. All of us experience it a little differently, or even a lot differently. Some of us become fighters, and shout it out to the world. Others of us withdraw, snuggling up with ourselves or a few close friends. Some of us know that things will change for the better, that a world that will accept us is already on its way. Others of us are equally certain that the world will simply change the way it disguises and delivers its hatred. Some of us are sad, some of us are angry, some of us are content, some of us are happy, some of us are hopeful, some of us are cynical, but all of us need a community that can let us be ourselves, that can be patient with us as we process the euphoria and the dysphoria, the gladness and the grief.
It can be hard to do this, though. Many of us carry trauma, sorrows, obligations, and other circumstances that make it difficult for us to be there for one another. Being trans doesn’t make a person perfect, and we can hurt each other and ourselves. But everything I’ve experienced, good and bad, has convinced me that we must keep remembering, must keep telling our stories, must keep learning to love ourselves, and must keep insisting that the world let us be ourselves. Because, whatever our experience of gender, we are 100% human. This day is our reminder to the world, because the world tends to forget. So we dedicate this evening, and hopefully ourselves, to remember, to mourn, to protest, to honor and respect, to express love, and to stand and fight.