I attended the New Orleans Transgender Day of Remembrance event at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of New Orleans last night because it is important for our community to memorialize those taken from us because of hate. I was there as someone who has worked alongside the trans community but also because I was invited as a representative of the Forum For Equality, an LGBT human rights organization here in Louisiana.
It was a lovely place to hold this service and there were many powerful speakers who spoke of the pain but also of hope. Standing there, as the names of the US victims of transphobic violence and some of the international ones, was very moving. To have the stark truth read out of the severe forms of hate violence, the police indifference and even the journalistic failure to give dignity in death for individual’s chosen names and pronouns was sobering as to the real and daily harassment and discrimination faced by the trans community.
We must do all we can to to end violence against transgender and gender non-conforming people because one is too many.
Below are my remarks:
I want to start with an apology.
I apologize for the way in which the lesbian and gay community in particular has hurt transpeople. I am sorry. I’m sorry for my own failure to be the best ally possible. I’m sorry that your allies have not always fought for your rights, have not been by your side in all your battles and made you feel disrespected, isolated and questioning your own worthiness.
Society has tried to erase the presence and suppress the contributions of transgender and gender variant people and, to our shame, many of lesbians and gays have colluded with this silencing and ignored the needs of our trans brothers and sisters.
Words and attitudes can have very real consequences. It is horrific that this year saw over 250 people killed due to their gender identity or presentation. Such acts of violence against the transgender community are linked to the failure of our entire community to work to end transgender discrimination and oppressive conditions for gender non-conforming people.
All of us deserve to thrive and to bring our fullest, most vibrant versions of our selves into the open. The world is made more whole by the full participation of transpeople.
Tonight we mourn the dead. Tomorrow and every other day, we must fight for the living.
Please remember that you add value to this world that no-one else could ever replace. You are an important part of this community. Most importantly, we are in this together. Because of that I re-commit the Forum For Equality to supporting the needs and rights of transgender people and their families here in Louisiana and everywhere.
I’ll end with a quote from Paul Monette. While these words were written about the death toll from AIDS, they have special meaning on this Transgender Day of Remembrance.
He wrote: “Tell yourself: None of this ever had to happen. And then go make it stop, with whatever breath you have left. Grief is a sword, or it is nothing.”