This blog was submitted as a tribute to the people who have died as victims of trans hate crimes. We invite you to read this story and help support and advocate for trans rights.
November 20th marks an important day for both our community and to me. November 20th is International Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day founded by Gwendolyn Ann Smith when her friend Rita Hester, a Black Trans sex worker, was killed in 1998. Sadly, Transgender people, and overwhelmingly Transgender women of colour who are involved in sex work, continue to be murdered due to transphobic violence. I was born in 1999, the first year this day was observed. I have spent a lifetime remembering those we have lost and am continually reminded of how our community is still in danger, so many years later.
At HIV Community Link, we work closely with sex workers, many of whom are women of colour, many of whom identify as Trans. We see first-hand the loss of vocation, children, safety, and wellbeing due to the compounded threats of transphobia, racism, misogyny, and anti-sex worker sentiment. On November 20th, we remember the bold pioneers who have fought tooth and nail for recognition, validation, and Trans rights. Trans women who have had a long history of being at the forefront of movements for liberation for the LGBTQ2S+ community. Trailblazers like Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Tamara Ching, Felicia Elizondo, and Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, who were leaders at Stonewall and the Compton Cafeteria Riots, who were at the forefront of addressing the AIDS/HIV crisis, and who rallied at numerous other riots, marches, and social justice movements, recognizing that, as Marsha P. stated “you never completely have your rights, one person, until you all have your rights”. Let us celebrate the leaders who have and continue to fight tooth and nail for their livelihood, for their safety, and for justice and liberation.
Let us never forget that Transgender people are resilient, perseverant, and powerful leaders in our community. Let us also remember that Transgender people are not afforded a day off from witnessing violence against our community. Trans violence continues today; we began our year with the loss of activist, father, and Trans man Dustin Parker who was killed on January 1, 2020 while working as a taxi driver. And while it seems like the beginning of 2020 was eons ago, the person responsible for Dustin’s death has not been found or charged. Since Dustin’s passing, we have seen the continued mistreatment and wrongful deaths of Black people at the hands of police, and worldwide movements, marches, and riots demanding for the world to wake up and acknowledge that Black Lives Matter in response to community violence. During this demand for justice and recognition of life, self-proclaimed chef, brother, and Black Trans man Tony McDade was killed by police. While we remember those we have lost, we also must remember that we cannot address transphobia without addressing racism, white supremacy, and colonialism as well. Let us remember the people who are not seen, and those we have lost without public outcry and outrage.
I am non-binary, meaning I am not a man nor a woman. Not all non-binary people identify as Trans, but Trans does fit my experience – my gender is not the same as the one I was assigned at birth. I am privileged to live in relative safety as a Trans person, and I am lucky to have a supportive birth and chosen family. Although it shouldn’t be an exceptional story to have the bare minimum of safety, security, and love, the truth is that many Transgender people do not have these things in their lives. I also have countless Trans people to thank for making this life possible for me.
Being Trans is not solely an experience of loss, despair, and sorrow. It is also an experience of love, laughter, and celebration. Being Trans is not a tragedy. It is the continuous and deliberate systems that fuel and uphold transphobia that is the true tragedy. Trans people have always resisted and will continue to resist against a society that tells us not to. Today and every day, remember the resiliency, the power, the love, and the magic of Transgender people. My hope is that one day, Trans people will not die at the hands of transphobia.
But for today, let us honour and remember those who have.
H.R. – Practicum Student, HIV Community Link