Today marks Transgender Day of Remembrance. On this day, transgender and gender non-conforming people join with our allies to mourn and memorialize the transgender and gender non-conforming people who have been killed for who they are. There’s a lot at stake here. Trans* people, particularly transgender women of color, face horrendous bigotry, violence, and murder. According to a 2011 study by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, 50% of LGBT individuals murdered in 2009 were trans women and 44% of LGBT individuals murdered in 2010 were trans women. This year, the Transgender Murder Monitoring project identified 238 reported cases of murdered trans* people around the world since November 20, 2012.
The consequences of this violence are disastrous for individual liberty. This violence and bigotry makes trans* people afraid to express their gender identities. It makes us afraid to walk in certain places and times. Freedom of expression, freedom of movement, and gender self-determination are jeopardized by violence, bigotry, harassment, and murder.
Rather than protecting people from these crimes, the police and prison systems all too often perpetrate them. In October, a drag performer in Texas was tased by cops and died shortly after. CeCe McDonald still languishes in prison for surviving a hate crime in which her racist and transphobic attacker died. The state’s criminal justice system all too often incarcerates trans* and gender non-conforming people for defending themselves from violence. A 2011 report found that 29% of trans* people had experienced police harassment and abuse. Is it any wonder that 46% said they “were uncomfortable seeking police assistance”? In the struggle against gender violence and abuse, the state is not an institution we can rely on for help. It is damage we must route around.
I hope you will take some time tonight to find a Transgender Day of Remembrance event in your community. Please take some time today to mourn the many trans* folks, especially trans women of color, who have been murdered. Trans* lives matter. Violence matters. Freedom of movement, gender expression, and gender self determination matter. Today let’s mourn our dead; tomorrow let’s fight for the living.