Transgender Day of Remembrance is not my event. I mean, I’ve feared for my life and the lives of trans folk I know in the past, and there are points where I still do, but I can’t truly comprehend what today means. I look at the list of women who’ve been killed in transgender hate crimes both this year and in years past; these are women whose lives I couldn’t begin to understand.
Much has been written about the political issues behind TDoR, the whitewashing of an event that predominantly mourns trans women of colour and the lack of community solidarity for TWoC outside of this day of mourning, and honestly I have little to add. These conversations have been had for years by women far more affected by these issues than I, and with voices far clearer and wise.
Though it is shifting, the ‘transgender movement’ has in all honesty spent too long fronted by women like me: white, middle class, educated women who have support networks, access to medical care and too many opinions that we express in practised, feminine voices, while the members of public who become indignant and violent at our presence take out their resentment on the trans women that cis society won’t remember. The women of colour. The women who desire treatment and yet have no access it. The women who have no interest in hormones or surgery. The women who are visibly not cisgender.
Today I ask of you this. When you see society celebrate a beautiful transgender woman speak with an eloquent, clear voice, remember that she is not the standard to which trans people are to be held, that she represents one small facet of the multiverse of trans beauty and experience.
When you see an amazing transgender child excited for their future and happy with their body, remember the many thousands before them (and equally many contemporaries) who’ve faced religious antagonism, colonialism, transphobic medical care, lack of access to resources, and institutional violence.
When you see police involvement in and co-opting of events and ideas, remember that a history of transphobic policing isn’t over in many parts of the world, and even in many parts of this country, let alone the violently racist and xenophobic system that they continue to uphold.
When you see films, tv shows, standup comics, “mainstream feminists” and even former transgender leaders enacting acts of violence against us through slurs and misgendering, remember that even if most of us are ‘in on the joke’ (hint: the joke has never been funny), this environment enables the bullies, the abusers and the murderers to act. Who’s to say they don’t see your snickering at casual transmisogyny as implicit endorsement?
We need to be better, and we need to do better by those who have it the hardest.
In an excellent piece published two years ago now, L’lerrét Jazelle Ailith wrote the following:
I implore you to sit back and ask yourself how you contribute to the violence and injustice against trans women of color. How do you reinforce the marginalization and ostracism of myself and my sisters? … It’s not enough to read the names of my sisters killed off by the normative nature of this capitalistic system. Moments of silence are not enough.
November 20th has become a designated day for the mourning that occurs throughout the year, and grief certainly has a place in how we reflect on both our community and those who’ve borne the brunt of a violently transphobic system. Today I ask that you reflect on the privilege and ability that you may have — as white trans folk, as cisgender folk, as folk with financial means — and to put effort year-round into lifting up the voices and needs of those who are far more likely to be named today than us.