My family isn’t here.
I get birthday and Christmas cards from them, and ever since 25 October 2015, every check comes with a curse. “Are you still doing this?” “May you see clearly,” “I think your wife put you up to this,” “For our son,” “Dearest [deadname],” Spanish adjectives all in masculine, and more, every one a reminder that their definition of “acceptance” means “other than that one time at your grandfather’s funeral last month, we won’t physically remove you from family events.”
They have threatened to disown me for half a dozen different slights against their vision of what their family should look like, and demanded I not hold that against them because, each time, they relented. They are personally disgusted and/or disappointed by everything I am and everything I stand for, and have been since before I knew what most of those things are. They vote with their disgust, up to and including in the most recent US election, their bigotry outweighing any pretense of inter-POC solidarity. They hear of the horrifying things this community, my community, endures, our Pulses and Pences and the endless list of our sisters whom we remember today, and when they don’t quietly rejoice that someone is standing up for “family values,” they wonder why this horror isn’t sufficient to have me “choose” to not be one of you. They don’t understand me, and they don’t want to understand me, and the only photos of me they have on their walls are from before I told them about me.
I keep coming back because this world promised me that family means something. They promised me that they’d be the people who care about me enough to make understanding me a priority. They promised me that they would forever be the people proudest of me for being the first of my grandmother’s seventeen grandchildren to earn a doctorate. They promised me that they would be precious anchors in my culture, keeping the sights and smells and festive traditions of home close at hand no matter how far I went. They promised me that they were the people around whom I would never feel or be unwelcome. They promised me that they would offer comfort when I need it. They lied.
Rae’lynn Thomas, 28, was shot to death by her mother’s live-in ex-boyfriend.
Xiaofeng Zhang, 22, was pushed out of a window by his father.
Raina Aliyev, 25, was disowned by her family, who demanded her murder on Russian television. She was found dismembered.
I have relatives who tell me to be grateful I wasn’t one of them whenever I point out that my parents have promised to never refer to me as Alyssa. I have relatives who tell me that my wincing whenever Mom and Dad remind me that they wish I wasn’t me is unreasonable, because Mom and Dad showed up for my convocation, so clearly, they’re “trying.” I have entirely too many relatives who enthusiastically and specifically vote for my oppression and still expect me to feel safe around them. I have too many relatives whose only response when I mention the bigotry I endure is “you chose this.”
Even as I latch onto and chase the last glimmers of hope for them, I can see I was wrong about something.
My family is here.
We’re here, holding each other up on this dark day when we remember those of us taken away far too young, and push away the darker thought, How many more? We’re here, constantly directing amongst each other the smallest excesses of our bank accounts because we know they’ll come back when we need them. We’re here memorizing and vetting resources because we know the next of us will have the same questions and less time. We’re here, sharing everything we have with each other because we know that each other is all we have.
We’re here, bearing witness to each other’s anger and sadness and grief because we know how close every one of them always is, and what it represents to those of us still standing every time one of us falls. We’re here, letting none of us go unmourned even when our own parents are glad to see us go.
Today, we remember those of us who aren’t here anymore because they took them away. Today, we remember those of us who couldn’t be here today because they made them afraid. Today, we remember those of us forced to choose between our cultures and communities, and ourselves, and what a hideous, wrenching decision that is, and how critical it is for those people to find a welcoming, understanding, anti-racist trans community when they flee.
Today, we remember the dream of a year where the lists don’t get longer.
Today, we make a promise to the future, that we’ll keep being here for each other, in grief and anger, in poverty and homesickness, in desperation and hope.
Today, we remember.
(Partial video of reciting this piece at the TDoR memorial in Ottawa last night.)