Transgender Awareness Week
Aside from the outspoken push and pull of ideals and ideologies between political parties this November, it’s important to keep in mind that beyond those ephemeral concepts, there is a real, devastating truth that is affected by the outcome of individuals voted into office, and legislation that is made into law. Transgender Awareness Week is observed around the country between November 12 – 19, during which individuals and organizations will participate in to help raise the visibility of transgender and gender non-conforming people and address the issues the community faces. Rounding out this week of recognition and introspection is Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR), on November 20, a day that honors the memory those who have lost their lives in acts of anti-transgender violence.
On November 19, 2018, the Human Rights Campaign Today Foundation released A National Epidemic: Fatal Anti-Transgender Violence in America in 2018, a heartrending report memorializing the more than 22 transgender people killed in 2018 and describing the many factors that lead to this appalling violence.
22 is a rough estimate, of course, because its impossible to account for the many cases of violent deaths that go unreported altogether and those that involve transgender individuals that may not be identified as transgender in the media, often because authorities, journalists and/or family members refuse to acknowledge their gender identity.
It is important to acknowledge that each of these people ultimately died because they made the courageous decision to live their own truth. Facing the possible consequences of this decision is what keeps many people firmly in the closet, understandably. As long as this violence continues without laws and protections to safeguard the community, many transgender people will remain unable to make that leap to authenticity.
During the summer of 2018, there was an outbreak of attacks that claimed the lived of nine Black trans women in eight cities across the country
in a span of only 10 weeks. Many organizations like the HRC continue to work together to advocate for victims that are treated disrespectfully by the very people in law enforcement that are supposed to protect and come to their aid. A disproportionate number of these victims are women of color.
It is apparent from this report that more needs to be done to encourage accurate reporting of hate crimes, inclusivity training for law enforcement and emergency personnel, and data collection that astutely categorizes the victims of violence according to their actual gender identity, and not by what their families or local media feel “comfortable” calling them. “While Transgender Day of Remembrance is a critical event, scholars and activists committed to advancing intersectional approaches to trans politics continue to highlight the importance of seeing transphobic violence as inherently connected to race, gender, and class.” This is reflected in the particularly high instances of violence against trans women of color in general, black and Latina transgender women in particular.” However, if we can’t get the numbers right, how can we possibly come up with any solutions based on any of those criteria?
This isn’t just about statistics leading to solutions for problems in and out of the community. More importantly, every victim deserves to be acknowledged for that brave choice to live that authentic life. Ignoring their preferred gender identity is, in essence, erasing who that person really was while constructing an individual out of thin air based on what you deem is an acceptable construct of living. How dare anyone take that liberty with the truth!? How dare anyone show victims of violence such disrespect?!
Of note about this report is that is eulogizes each individual transgender victim separately and with some detail. These are not just numbers or cautionary tales. These are people of tremendous fearlessness who not only lived their lives as they wanted, but also tried to help others within their LGBT community. They were great friends, siblings, and children with big personalities who will be missed by many- as they should be. It is some small consolation that they are being acknowledged, but it’s still better than the many who have been murdered in anonymity.