It’s never easy to approach the subject of the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) each November 20th. Bittersweet emotion, anger, despair, hope, and grief all war for the top spot on the mental dashboard.


The origin of TDOR is the same as ever before - I’ll even quote myself here from 2014:


“The Transgender Day of Remembrance was begun by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith as a vigil to honor the memory of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was killed in 1998. The vigil commemorated all the transgender people lost to violence that year and began an important memorial that has become the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance. From 1999 forward, the service has continued, spreading across the world. A hallmark of the service is the reading of the names, where known, of all of those who have been murdered since the previous year.”

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This year is different in so many ways.


For the last six years, we’ve seen double digit % increases in our murders. 25 of our Trans siblings have been murdered this year as of 11/8/17 compared to 26 last year.


These numbers do not include any trans murders from the 2016 Pulse Orlando massacre.


I believe the true number to be far higher.


I believe that far more of our suicides are due to societal oppression, violence, and discrimination than our own dysphoria or depression.


Our society murders us on the regular.


As always, these numbers are inaccurate due to the misgendering, deadnaming, misidentification, lack of reporting requirements, and law enforcement obstruction.


There’s a real possibility that we may see a lesser increase, or no increase this year.


Writing these words invests me with a superstitious dread, as though by expressing such hope I may anger the fates, and unleash more murderous violence upon us.


As has always been the fact, this year sees the brunt of murderous violence directed at Trans people of color, most particularly Black Trans women. 21 of our dead are people of color, 16 Black Trans women.


I frequently encounter pushback about mentioning these numbers.

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“Why do you have to bring up race, Jaimie?”


“All trans lives matter, why do you talk so much about just some?”


“Cis people will ignore us if you make our narrative about race!”


Frack. That.


I will never talk about violence to the trans community without centering that violence on those who bear it most; Trans people of color. I refuse to indulge in the whitewashing of our collective narrative by banner-waving transgender violence porn without mentioning WHO does most of the dying. I reject the harnessing of Trans people of color’s deaths to ever-widening agendas.


In fact, I refuse to comment further on the intersection of race and gender and gender identity without including Black voices.


Here’s a quote I find very compelling, from “Trans Necropolitics: A Transnational Reflection on Violence, Death and the Trans of Color Afterlife”, jointly authored by Dr. C. Riley Snorton and Jin Haritaworn, 2013.


“The concept of an afterlife has a particular resonance for transgender studies. It provides a framework for thinking about how trans death opens up political and social life-worlds across various times and places. Whether through the commemorative, community-reinforcing rituals of Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) or as an ex post facto justification for hate crime and anti-discrimination policies, trans deaths-and most frequently the deaths of Trans women or trans-feminine people of color-act as a resource for the development and dissemination of many agendas.”


This year is different in so many ways.


We’re living in/surviving/alive-in-a-bitter-sea in 2017 with seemingly irreconcilable contradictions.


We’ve never faced such organized resistance for basic human rights, much less civil rights as Trans people.


We’ve never before achieved current levels of acceptance and visibility.

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We see this, from the Trump administration whacking guidance protecting Trans children in publicly funded schools K-12; the rejection by Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Department of Justice that the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects gender identity and sexual orientation, the Transgender Military Ban—to an increase from 19% of Americans knowing or having spoken to a Trans person to 40%, with 60%+ of non-Republican Americans supporting explicit Trans inclusion in federal civil rights laws.


We see this in cultural pushback, from the increasing virulence of hate radio, bathroom bills, discriminatory legislation carving out exceptions to gender identity and sexual orientation equality on the basis of religious belief.


We see it in our lives and region, with the heinous murder of Ally Steinfeld in the Missouri Ozarks, to the killing of Kiwi Herring here in St. Louis, one of the THREE Trans people shot to death by police in 2017.


But we also see the cancellation of a transphobic comedian’s appearance, a victory won right here in St. Louis by our local Trans and Intersex activists. We see Millennials 65% in favor of equal rights for Trans people, almost double Boomers. They are now the single largest component of the workforce and will redefine how inclusion is made real.


We saw in May the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals rule that the Kenosha Unified School District in Wisconsin violated the rights of a trans student, Ash Whitaker, when it refused to let him use the boys’ bathroom.

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We saw here in November the election of Danica Roem, the first out Trans person elected to a state assembly in the nation’s history.


It’s the usual conflict of emotion and experience, fact and fear, that I find top-of-mind in this moment before November 20, 2017.


It’s been a year of stinging defeats and monstrously hateful and violent rhetoric and yet also of shocking victories and on-the-ground progress.


I honestly don’t know if I have the right to claim ownership of my final feeling and thought at the moment of this writing, as that is hope.


I am terrified to be hopeful. But I’m going to approach this year’s TDOR ceremonies and commemorations with my fearful heart, clutching a tiny green sprig of hope in my trembling hand, and say the same thing I say every year about TDOR.


I hope next year is the year we have no names to read.


Click here for a list of area TDOR Events.


Ms. Jaimie Hileman is the Executive Director of Trans Education Service LLC of St. Louis (TES).

 

 

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