Transgender Day of Remembrance is important to observe each year for everyone. It's an opportunity for the world to take note of the rash of anti-transgender violence plaguing our community. But especially for trans people of color, it is a moment to pause and be mindful of those whom we have lost in tragic ways, and to mourn these losses of human life as a means to continue healing and rebuilding ourselves and our communities. We must also use this as a call to action to educate and raise awareness of the need to stop the violence perpetuated against all transgender people but particularly those of color, including in our own communities of color.
The National Anti-Violence Project (NCAVP) shows that trans people of color are the most targeted due to race and lack of conformity of our gender identities and presentations to the greater society. In fact, according to the NCAVP 40 percent of the fatal attacks against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in 2011 specifically targeted trans women, particularly trans women of color. It's this combination that seems to make us more susceptible to hate violence, which can come in many forms.
Trans people of color are particularly susceptible to being targeted while walking down the street, attending school, catching a bus, shopping or even obtaining employment, just to name a few examples, due to their race and gender identity and presentation. Hate violence comes in the form of disapproving stares; negative comments, jokes and slurs; and harassment at school by students, teachers and administrators and at work by coworkers and superiors. Trans people of color are twice as likely to be targeted or killed due to race and gender identity and presentation. These acts lead to further aggression of violence. It even condones violence that is perpetuated by "the system," which includes courts, law enforcement and prison workers. We are profiled just walking down the street and then subjected to extra scrutiny and attention that doesn't protect trans people but makes us even more vulnerable and likely to become incarcerated and a part of the system in which we suffer even more abuse. Perpetuating hate and violence condones domestic violence by our partners once others find out we're trans. It condones mistreatment in schools, communities, work and other places. Hate and violence not only lead to abuse and murder but sometimes to suicide. According to the national survey "Injustice at Every Turn," nearly half, or 41 percent, of trans people have attempted suicide, which is 25-percent more than the national average.
One of the major obstacles to overcoming this hate and violence would be economic stability and empowerment of the trans community. Trans people, particularly communities of color, make less than $10,000 per year if employed, according to "Injustice at Every Turn." We know that joblessness leads to homelessness, poor health care and being vulnerable on the streets. We are not unemployed because we are lazy, unskilled or unintelligent or don't want to work. It is because society does not deem us worthy of even having a job. The playing field is not level. If we choose to disclose our true selves and not hide, we are not hired. If we choose not to disclose but later are found to be trans, we are fired or harassed and forced from employment. Or, even worse, we feel like we must hide the fact that we are trans as if it were some dirty little secret. We should not have to hide to be employed. Our employability should not hinge upon being able to hide but upon being qualified for the job. Being trans is only one part of a person! We are much more than just trans.
Let's take affirmative steps to decrease the horrific murders and other harm due to fear and ignorance. In an effort to stop the hate and save precious lives, my hope and my request is that from this time of reflection, we as one village --nationally and globally -- lay down our swords of hate, violence, fear and ignorance. I ask every reader to commit to educating yourself and getting to know trans people. My guess is that you're even related to someone or work with someone whom you just might not know is trans. Secondly, I ask you to be aware of your actions and words so as not to perpetuate hate or violence, then to take action and contact your local, state and congressional legislators to urge passage of employment protections and other policies that affect trans people. There is no protection from employment discrimination nationally for those who are transgender. Work with local, state and national court systems and law enforcement to educate and inform. I am asking communities of color to step up and protect members within our own communities. If we abuse someone within our own community or allow them to be abused because of bigotry, then what are we saying about our own worth? Is bigotry of any kind acceptable? Even the kind perpetuated against you?
Communities of color, I am asking you to stand with us. We are people of color who happen to be trans. We didn't choose communities. Lesbian, gay and bisexual people, we fought with you and are also a part of your community. Some of us may be lesbian, gay, bisexual, asexual or straight.
This is a call to action!
Let's not make the loss of these human souls futile. We are humans, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, butchers, bakers and candlestick makers. We are everyday people.
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