Today we memorialize and celebrate the lives of those transgender and gender-nonconforming persons who were murdered this past year simply because of their gender identities. We also honor the lives of trans people who ended their own lives because they just could not bear to go on in the face of the emotional and/or physical violence brought about by transphobia.
Being transgender isn't what is killing us. It is the culture we live in. It is a culture that teaches people that we aren't real men or women, one that reduces us to jokes intended to inspire visceral reactions of disgust. It is a culture that teaches people that such portrayals are not just acceptable but entirely justified. It is embedded in our culture that we have no value.
Over the past two weeks, community members in L.A. have held a vigils to mourn the death and celebrate the life of Aniya Parker. The murder of Ms. Parker marked the eighth homicide of a transgender woman of color reported in the U.S. since June. She was shot in the head and killed as she was fleeing from three men who had confronted her on a sidewalk in Hollywood.
We are gathering in support of Lateisha, a young woman who was taken from us too soon, and whom the justice system has utterly failed. This isn't about sending a man back to prison for a terrible crime. This is about sending a message that we will not stand by while the court, and the state, decide to value certain lives more than others.
For the first time ever, there is a database where people can see exactly what is happening to transgender people globally in terms of violent acts against them. The TVTP was launched earlier this year in the hope of accumulating as much data as possible in order to serve as a true resource and, ultimately, to put a stop to such acts.
In Isaiah, God calls us not to live in fear. At first blush this may seem to be a callous or trivial response to what is in fact a horrifying reality. But the prophet who wrote these words and the community that heard them were living through the floods and fires of their own terrifying circumstances.
Dorothy Allison wrote, "Two or three things I know for sure, and one of them is just this -- if we cannot name our own we are cut off at the root...." I use this quotation each year for my church's Trans Day of Remembrance service, an event I am tired of observing. I'm weary of counting our dead, and weary of reading the ways we die.