Twenty years ago transgender activist Gwendolyn Ann Smith organized an event to memorialize the unsolved murder of Rita Hester, a transgender woman from Allston, Massachusetts. This event has become an annual observance to remember the names of transgender and nonbinary people we have lost. Since November 21, 2017, more than 300 transgender and non-binary people have been lost to violence across the globe. That is over 300 names that will be read over and over again during remembrance events around the country. Over 300 stories being told.
But these stories should not have ended in violence. These lives should not have been cut short. These are lives taken due to hatred, bigotry, misogyny, sexism, and racism.
I am not heartbroken. I am angry. Janet Mock speaks of the trans women of color caught at the intersection of racism, classism, and sexism. Where do we start the education against all of the “isms”? We are past due.
I am a transgender person who presents as both male and white. What can I do to resist the “isms”? It is not enough to show up and be present at the reading of the names of people whose lives were cut short. How do I resist a culture that creates so many barriers for transgender people? Am I doing enough to break down barriers created by those “isms”?
I think the answer is, at best, “some days.” Some days I get it right. Some days I get it wrong. But I have to keep trying. I have to keep showing up. I have to keep knocking down barriers when and where I can.
We cannot allow ourselves to be uncomfortable only a few hours of the year and think that’s enough. We cannot allow ourselves to rage against a culture that devalues transgender women of color only when one of them becomes the victim of a hate crime.
Before they are simply names on a list to be read, we must follow the transgender and nonbinary people who are leading our movement now. We must listen to the voices of the transgender and nonbinary people who are actively resisting a culture that tells them to be silent. We must support the transgender and nonbinary people in our lives who need us today and every day.
Each act of resistance matters. Each seed we plant counts. What will yours be?
Lou Weaver, Transgender Programs Coordinator