The Transgender Day of Remembrance, which falls on Saturday this year, is a time to honor the transgender people who have fallen to violence in the last twelve months. Each name, each face represents a precious life that ended because of another person’s consuming hatred and fear. It is, quite simply, a terrible tragedy.
Last night at NCTE’s anniversary celebration, Ruby Corado from the DC Trans Coalition spoke so powerfully about the shift that our community has made from picking up the bodies of victims to the conviction that we can and must fix the problems that leave bodies behind. She talked about the work that is needed to heal and to help those who have been survivors of violence but also the ways in which we are called to change policies and attitudes to make things better.
She is absolutely right. We must extend our deepest compassion and care to those who continue to face violence and discrimination because of their gender identity or expression. At the same time, we must be passionately committed to rooting out the causes of that violence and creating a safer world for all of us.
Transgender people can face violence in every aspect of our lives—in doctors’ offices, in schools, at home, and in the streets. This is absolutely unacceptable—there is simply no other way to put it. But hope is seen in the reactions of people when we talk about this. Two of our staff members conducted trainings this week, one for public health officials and one for educators; in both cases, people were shocked that their peers were engaging in violence and harassment. And sometimes all it takes to interrupt an act of violence or discrimination is one person who is aware that it wrong and has the courage to stand up to injustice and abuse. We hope that we planted seeds this week that will cause others to take action when the rights of transgender people are violated.
There is, of course, no one solution to the problem of violence against transgender people. We need to work to create hope. We need to work to create a society in nwhich transgender people can get and keep jobs. And we need the protections of federal laws—available to us for the first time this year in the Matthew Shephard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act—that will instigate both law enforcement action and study to address the issue of hate motivated violence. We must continue to educate our families, our friends, and the public about the realities of transgender lives, to broaden their understanding of who we are.
We must continue to work to create supportive environments—at work, at home, at school—where we are safe from hateful words and violence. And we must continue to expand and to grow those places.
As we approach the Day of Remembrance, let us take a moment now to reflect on the tragic loss of real people, on the ways in which we can reach out to those who have survived violence—both those who have been targeted or the families and loved ones of those murdered—and on the ways in which we can take action to end it. Things must change … and together, we are the agents of that change.