November marks the month in which the transgender community observes the Transgender Day of Remembrance. Usually on November 20, it’s a day set aside to mourn and remember all of the people who have been lost in the last year to violence. It’s always a sobering day and preparing for the remembrance service always feels weighty.
But this year…this year it feels even more so. The other day I made a presentation for a remembrance ceremony I was going to be leading. I put together a video of each person’s name, their age, and where they were killed, and if there was a photo I added that, too. Name after name. Slide after slide. I finished and hit save several days before the video would be used.
By the next morning it was out of date.
2017, with two months left to go, is already the deadliest year on record (since statistics started being kept) for transgender people in the United States. I fully expect that in the next two months that number will rise even higher. Primarily transgender women of color, almost every person is under the age of 30.
Every year I recite the same stats; violence primarily affects transgender women of color, the life expectancy of a trans woman of color is 33, transgender people face extreme violence, the ways in which these people were killed is almost always a form of overkill. And on and on and on.
I do this work because it matters. I present these stories and names and statistics to primarily cisgender audiences who, often, have no idea that any of this is even happening. They are, of course, shocked and horrified. And I am glad they are shocked and horrified.
And yet I am exhausted. I am exhausted from telling these things year after year and seeing the statistics get worse. I am exhausted from being in primarily non-trans spaces and having to figure out ways to communicate my own humanity. I am exhausted that my life is still seen as fodder for cisgender people to sensationalize and make money off of. And I am exhausted that when I try to tell my own story I am often passed over for a cisgender writer or actor.
And yet I am still alive. I am employed. I am relatively safe (though aware that my safety is always conditional, always fragile, always contingent on so many factors that are completely out of my control).
So I do the work. I tell the stories and the statistics. I try to help people to see my humanity (and the humanity of my community). I do another transgender 101 workshop. I preach, I teach.
But it takes a toll. It takes a toll to do this work. To tell these stories and statistics. To be in situations where the people who have the power to stop such things express their horror and sadness to me and then go on with their lives while I look over my shoulder, once again, while walking to my car.
I don’t know how to make it better. Honestly I’m not sure that I can. Honestly this one is on you, cisgender folks. I need you to educate yourselves. I need you to check your anti-trans ideas. I need you to get over your own discomfort. I need you to talk to your families and friends about their anti-trans ideas. I need you to advocate for my humanity.
Because the political and religious context we are currently living in? Well, it’s beyond hostile to me and my community. And I am carrying that weight with me every single day. Every day a new news story; protections rolled back, people murdered, lack of access to resources that will keep us alive. Every day it’s a new story; someone kicked out of their family home, families who refuse to use the right pronouns, people struggling, struggling, struggling to make ends meet.
And I don’t know how to convince you to see me and my community; to see our humanity, to see our worthiness, to see what we have to offer and give to the world. And if you say you see me, I don’t know how to convince you to do the work to help others see me as well. Because it cannot rest entirely on my shoulders. I cannot bear the burden and the responsibility alone; not without people having my back in real ways.
So in this month of mourning for the transgender community I want to ask: What will you do? How will you get involved? How will you make it different?