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Rebecca Juro Headshot

Transgender Day of Remembrance 2011: Remembering Our Dead and Our Living

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TRANSGENDER DAY OF REMEMBRANCE
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Every year, I hope it'll be different, and every year, it isn't. This year, it's even worse.

Every year, when the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance rolls around, I pay a visit to the Remembering Our Dead website to look at the names and read the stories of people whose lives were cut tragically short by acts of anti-transgender hate violence.

Every year, the list grows even longer, with this past year showing a marked increase in the number of lives lost to anti-transgender hate violence.

While many may remember the name Brandon Teena from "Boys Don't Cry," the Oscar-winning movie starring Hilary Swank, other names are not so well known. Gwen Araujo, Angie Zapata, Rita Hester, Ukea Davis, Amanda Milan... so many names known only to those who care enough to remember them.

Then there are the unknowns, those whose names we will probably never know, unidentified transgender people found murdered in places like Malaysia, Brazil, and Boston. Sadly, most of these cases will remain unsolved, some because there's not enough evidence to pursue the case, others because there's isn't anyone in law enforcement who cares enough to bother trying to bring their murderers to justice.

Another thing I hope every year at this time is that our government leaders in Washington will finally figure it out, that they'll break out of their partisan, self-concerned bubbles and realize that one of the most significant reasons that so many transgender people die in hate crimes across America every year is that they're forced into poverty and prevented from rising above it because we don't yet have a federal government with the courage and fortitude to stand up for basic civil rights for all Americans, to protect our right to earn a living and provide safe, stable homes for ourselves and our families.

Every year I hope that this will be the year when the promises of Democrats in Washington will prove to be more than just pleasant-sounding platitudes designed to separate the American electorate from as much of their money as possible to fill their campaign coffers and capture our support and votes to help ensure the continuation of their own power and privilege.

Every year I hope that this will be the year when the politicians will finally come to understand what we in the transgender community already know, what we've always known: that the passage of the federal hate crimes law last year was a very positive thing, but it can only treat the symptom. A hate crimes law only takes effect after the damage has already been done, when lives have already been lost or utterly destroyed.

In order to truly attack the problem of transgender hate crimes, transgender people must be able to lift themselves and their families out of poverty and into safer, more stable, more comfortable lives. In order to effectively prevent hate crimes, which occur much more frequently in lower-class, poverty-stricken communities than anywhere else, transgender people need to have our right to gainful employment and safe, secure housing protected by law.

Every year, I hope that this will finally be the year when the politicians finally realize that the best way to reduce the number of hate crimes is to reduce the number of the most vulnerable potential victims who are forced to remain in unsafe situations because there's no law where they live that requires that they be treated like everyone else when they apply for a job or try to rent an apartment.

Every year, I'm disappointed.

And every year, I wonder how many more transgender people will have to be murdered in acts of hate-fueled violence before the politicians finally get it. People are losing their lives because of their cowardice, and it needs to stop.