I’ve been thinking all day about what I wanted to say for Transgender Day of Remembrance. When it comes to days like this, it can feel like we’re rehashing the same damn thing over and over again. Trans people are still getting murdered at a horrifyingly disproportionate rate. Trans women, particularly trans women of colour, even more so. Even in Ireland, where murder rates are far lower than places like the US (for everyone), my trans (especially transfeminine) friends face a constant undercurrent of violence.
Here’s what I said three years ago:
I guess that we’re all a little bit selfish. We all love who we love, and though we care for those outside that little group, it’s the loss of our family, friends and lovers that tears at our guts and rips our lives apart. So every year on November 20th I feel a little bit lucky. The people I love are still here.
It’s a cruel kind of luck, and one that nobody should have to feel.
Like most of us, I’ve said goodbye to people I love over the years. They’ve died in different circumstances. Some after long years of illness. Some after short months or weeks. Some expected, some unexpected. Some peacefully, some in pain. The loss of every single one of them tore- and tears- my heart apart. But there’s one thing that is common to every one of them that I will always take comfort from. Every one of them died knowing that they were dearly loved. Everything that we could do to ease their suffering was done. They didn’t want for a hand to hold. They were cherished as they died.
Nobody can tell how each of us will end our lives. But that one simple thing- that in our last moments we know that we are loved and cherished, and that if there is any way to ease our suffering it will be done- is something that we can hope for everyone we care for. It’s the one thing that we can do.
Too many of our trans community are denied that.
So every year on November 20th we gather and we take time to remember the trans people who didn’t make it this far. Whose last moments were hatred, violence, contempt. Whose deaths were nothing but sport for those for whom their lives meant less than nothing. The latest victims in our wars of privilege and oppression. The overwhelming numbers of, in particular, poor trans women of colour, caught in the crossfire of too many intersections of hate. We gather together in the cold. Send short-lived, brightly burning lights into the darkness.
And every year I hold my loved ones closer.
There’s more. I still feel all of those things: sad, scared and lucky that the trans people I love have made it another year. Increasingly, though, I’m simply angry. Yes, we should honour the dead. But how many people turn up for TDOR and then do feck-all to support trans people for the other 364 days of the year? Why is this the best-known event that recognises trans people? What about people who are alive? What are we doing to protect them? How are we highlighting the factors- being a woman, being POC, being poor- that make someone far more likely to end up on a list on November 20th?
How are we working to make TDOR obsolete?
Here’s something about TDOR: it makes it really easy to see the bad guy as the Other. Here’s the cast of characters when we remember our murdered dead. There’s trans women of colour: that’s the damsels in distress. There’s the ogres, the monsters- that’ll be the people who are nothing like us who murder them. And then there’s us. The allies. The left-behinds. We’re the good guys who take the time to solemnly mourn our dead, every year. We read out lists of names. We light candles or send off paper lanterns. We hold each others hands. We read poetry and we sing. We feel sad. And then we move on, safe in the knowledge that we’ve done something important.
Yes, it’s important to mourn our dead. And yes, it’s important that we know that people have died in the first place. But if it’s to be more than just a funeral, shouldn’t we follow it with something else? Something more?
Here’s another thing: I don’t know what the murder rate of trans people is in Ireland. I haven’t heard of people being killed- which doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen, of course. But I do know that 1/3 of trans people in Ireland (who lived to talk about it) have tried to take their own lives.
Maybe the biggest problem isn’t murdering monsters. Maybe the murderers are one tiny part of something that saturates every part of our society: the idea that cisness is real and ordinary, where transness is strange and suspect.
We see this all the time. When people are shocked that trans kids know who they are- as if their very identity is only for adults. Fetishisation and disgust. Questioning trans people’s right to their gender. And so on, and so on.
Murder is the sharp edge of this, yes. But that’s all it is.
So on this trans day of remembrance, here’s my question- and it’s for me as well as for you: what are you doing to make this the last one? How are you making your communities inclusive of trans people? How are you making those communities especially inclusive of trans women and POC? How are you making transphobia and ciscentricism unacceptable?
Cause I’m tired of this.
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