The function of violence in this world, I believe, is to attempt to put people "in their places." I learned at an early age that violence toward me would be a potential consequence of me daring to step out of place, and I never knew my place when it came to gender. Though they said I was a boy when I was born, I never acted the way boys were allegedly supposed to. Those kids who chased me home from school every day during my elementary and junior high school years were trying to put me in my place. "They beat the girl out of my boy... or so they tried," to quote the transgender addition to Eve Ensler's iconic play "The Vagina Monologues." I was often threatened and called a sissy, a faggot. (Often when trans folks are verbally assaulted, homophobic slurs are used.) I was a fast runner as a kid, but sometimes the bullies caught me. I remember one such time being held down, kicked and hit before I finally got away. I knew that even though I didn't want to fight back, I was in a fight, whether I liked it or not.
This 13th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, I am aware that even if we don't want to fight back as transgender people, war is being waged against us every day, and many of us have paid the ultimate price with our lives. I am horrified, saddened and angered every time I read or hear about another trans person as the victim of this violence, this war. Tyra Trent's lifeless body was found in a vacant lot in Baltimore, Md. in February. She was murdered. Lashai McLean was shot and killed in Washington, D.C. in July. Shelley Hilliard's body was found burned and dismembered in Detroit, Mich. in October. Krissy Bates was found in her apartment stabbed in January. The medical examiner said she died as a result of "complex homicidal violence."
This 13th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, I believe it's also important for us to remember those instances of violence against trans people that did not result in death. So many of us watched the video on YouTube of the brutal beating of Chrissy Polis in a Baltimore, Md. McDonald's earlier this year. Two teenage girls brutally beat Polis until she had a seizure. One of the assailants has since pled guilty to first-degree assault and a hate crime. Polis is shunning the notoriety she has received since the video of her beating went viral. According to CBSBaltimore.com Polis just wants to, in her words, "lay low and keep my life as normal as much as possible." That's all most of us as trans people want to do, yet we find ourselves in a fight whether we want to fight back or not.
In August several news sources reported that Claudia Charriez, the trans woman who appeared on the first season of The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency, was physically assaulted by her New York City firefighter boyfriend, Taylor Murphy, who was featured in the 2011 FDNY calendar. He allegedly assaulted her because he thought she was flirting with someone else. It was reported that he was arrested and suspended from his FDNY job. This story was highly sensationalized by many news sources. But on this Transgender Day of Remembrance, it's important that we remember that trans folks are often the victims of domestic abuse and violence and that some of us are no longer here because of it. Thankfully, Charriez survived the attack by her boyfriend.
Reading comments on several different websites about this story, I noticed that many readers assumed that Charriez had not told Murphy that she is trans and that his violence toward her was justified because of the assumed deception.
None of the news reports suggested that Murphy didn't know that Charriez is trans. Yet this is the conclusion many readers jumped to, as if to suggest that a straight-identified man would never knowingly date a trans woman. This simply isn't true. The perpetuation of the mythology that trans women deserve violence because we "deceive" straight men needs to be debunked and put to rest once and for all. As long as the majority of our male partners remain closeted, it's easy for this myth to be sustained. The reality is that unfortunately, our partners can sometimes be our perpetrators. This is true in and outside the transgender community.
The challenges that trans people face are enormous and often overwhelming. No wonder so many of us who can live stealth choose to do so. Who would choose to experience the horrors of the war being waged against transgender people? But a war is, indeed, being waged against us, whether we want to fight back or not. I believe we dishonor the memories of all those trans people before us who have lost the war with their lives if we don't find our own ways to fight back. My way of fighting might not be the same as another trans person's, but if each of us doesn't find our own way to fight this war against us, we surely will lose, and those who've lost their lives simply because they are trans would have died in vain.
Let us all say a prayer for those trans people whom we've lost, and for all those people who've been victims of violence. Let us never forget them.