“Sometimes, We Just Have to Pay Full Price.”
February 21, 2008
Trans101 For Dumbasses
February 28, 2008

Counting the Cost

If my previous post seemed a little scattered and emotional, there’s a reason for it.  The first trans community function I ever attended was a TDoR function, as was the first event I ever MCed outside a support group.   I’ve been sensitive to transphobic violence at every step, and my own transition began with violence.  But seeing the settings for it shift to schools was not something I was prepared for.

At or around November 20th of every year, the transgender community commemorates a day of remembrance (TDoR) for transgender folk who have died as a result of transphobic or homophobic violence.  Since that memorial, fifteen more homicides involving transgender victims have occurred:

  • Sally (Salvador) Camatoy, Dubai, 19nov.07
  • Kellie Telesford, London, 21nov.07
  • Elly “Sayep” Susanna, Jakarta, nov07 (during a police raid)
  • Gabriela Alejandra Albornoz, Santiago, Chile, 28dec07
  • Patrick Murphy, Albuquerque, NM, 08jan08
  • Stacy (Jarrell) Brown, Baltimore, 08jan08
  • Fedra, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, 22jan08
  • Three unnamed transgender persons reported (plus seven gay men), Iraq, prior to 24jan08 (shiite squads cleansing campaign — these are missing, presumed dead)
  • unnamed, Detroit, 04feb08
  • Sanesha Stewart, New York, 09feb08
  • Lawrence King, Oxnard, CA, 12feb08
  • Simmie Williams, Fort Lauderdale, FL, 22feb08
  • Adolphus Simmons, Charleston, SC, 22feb08

Not all of these murders were necessarily related to being transgender.  Some of them, we’ll never be able to know the motives, or even confirm that anything has happened.  In some cases, victims also worked in the sex trade (Gabriela Alejandra Albornoz, possibly Simmie Williams and allegedly Sanesha Stewart — although Stewart may have been simply portrayed as such by New York police), which has additional dangers of its own.  But in many of these, the transphobia pieces would seem fit the puzzle thus far.

We do have to be careful not to co-opt these people and the significance of their lives.  They are individuals — some, unfortunately, with stories that will never be told.  I am concerned that a certain amount of capitalization might happen with King, especially.  Whatever we do, we must respect their memories and wishes when we know them, give respectful space when we don’t, and stand shoulder to shoulder with any related communities (i.e. drag communities, schools, GLBT and Gay-Straight Alliances, and sex workers) affected by their passing, rather than attempt to trump them.

On the other hand, the threat of transphobic violence is very real, and the issue needs to be raised, if justice is ever to be done for some.  Traditionally, there have been an average of 16 or 18 people added every year to the list of names we remember at TDoR.  With potentially 15 people murdered in three months, we are seeing both an increase in the reporting of such violence, and an increase in the violence itself.  Additionally concerning, several on the list are transgendered youths.  This is serious, and the media must know.  Awareness is one of the first few tools we have to try to prevent this from happening again. 

The second is non-discrimination law, and this is why we need The Matthew Shepard Act in the U.S. and a counterpart in Canada.  Although such laws’ effectiveness less as a deterrent and more for creating awareness, it’s more than nothing.  It also sends a message that this situation is unacceptable.  In an age where having a penis is still widely considered justification for murder in society, a hate crime classification can go some distance to change the use of panic defenses.

One Canadian activist has in the past held a formal day of celebration of transgender lives, on March 20 (although that would put it right before Easter weekend this year), for transfolk, be they with us or lost to us.  I do think this is a wonderful idea.  We need to mourn, but we should not have to spend our days in mourning.  Whether for those listed above, for those in our history (parts 1, 2 and 3 of 6), for appreciation of those in our support groups who hold us up and give us advice, for support of transyouth, for the success stories that we look up to (MTF and FTM) — or just to remember that transition is not an automatic death sentence, nor should it be — I think we do need something like this now.

I think it’s time my partner and I had that community BBQ we’ve been talking about….

(crossposted to Dented Blue Mercedes)

6 Comments

  1. Shari Miller says:

    I, personally, have two passions in life: the first is doing what I can to help trans kids through the organizations that support them. I am convinced unequivocably that addressing the issue in childhood leads to a better quality of life and less emotional
    baggage.

    My second passion is putting an end to the violence to the gender variant community. With me it’s personal. I had a dear close friend who was a trans woman who was gunned down in her own apartment in Los Angeles in August 2004. She had her life ahead of her when she was murdered at age 24.

    I wanted to have a TGDOR on a large scale that would have drawn national attention. The forum I had in mind will shortly be closing for two years for a major renovation. So that idea is out.

    We need an event that will serve notice on the public that the murder of our gender variant community will no longer be tolerated. It’s fine to have many small Days of Remembrance all over the USA and the world, but we need one that will draw media attention to it that can not be ignored. It needs to include the reading of the names of all the gender variant people who were murdered, when, where, and, especially, how. One can not help but be moved to tears when one reads of people being stabbed 90 times. One can not help but be moved to tears when one reads of the murder of a gender variant child by her father. This would be similar to the reading of names at the site of the World Trade Center.
    This needs to be done somewhere in November 2008. We really need to do this, somehow.

    Back in the 1930’s, if someone had stood up and said, “Hell, no. We aren’t going to take this violence against us any more,” perhaps the lives of six million people would have been saved.

    There are almost 400 names now on the list of murdered gender variant people.

    I believe the time has arrived for us to speak up, and say, “Hell, no. We aren’t going to take this violence against us any more.”

    We really need to do this before it’s too late.

  2. Shari Miller says:

    I, personally, have two passions in life: the first is doing what I can to help trans kids through the organizations that support them. I am convinced unequivocably that addressing the issue in childhood leads to a better quality of life and less emotional
    baggage.

    My second passion is putting an end to the violence to the gender variant community. With me it’s personal. I had a dear close friend who was a trans woman who was gunned down in her own apartment in Los Angeles in August 2004. She had her life ahead of her when she was murdered at age 24.

    I wanted to have a TGDOR on a large scale that would have drawn national attention. The forum I had in mind will shortly be closing for two years for a major renovation. So that idea is out.

    We need an event that will serve notice on the public that the murder of our gender variant community will no longer be tolerated. It’s fine to have many small Days of Remembrance all over the USA and the world, but we need one that will draw media attention to it that can not be ignored. It needs to include the reading of the names of all the gender variant people who were murdered, when, where, and, especially, how. One can not help but be moved to tears when one reads of people being stabbed 90 times. One can not help but be moved to tears when one reads of the murder of a gender variant child by her father. This would be similar to the reading of names at the site of the World Trade Center.
    This needs to be done somewhere in November 2008. We really need to do this, somehow.

    Back in the 1930’s, if someone had stood up and said, “Hell, no. We aren’t going to take this violence against us any more,” perhaps the lives of six million people would have been saved.

    There are almost 400 names now on the list of murdered gender variant people.

    I believe the time has arrived for us to speak up, and say, “Hell, no. We aren’t going to take this violence against us any more.”

    We really need to do this before it’s too late.

  3. Shari Miller says:

    I, personally, have two passions in life: the first is doing what I can to help trans kids through the organizations that support them. I am convinced unequivocably that addressing the issue in childhood leads to a better quality of life and less emotional
    baggage.

    My second passion is putting an end to the violence to the gender variant community. With me it’s personal. I had a dear close friend who was a trans woman who was gunned down in her own apartment in Los Angeles in August 2004. She had her life ahead of her when she was murdered at age 24.

    I wanted to have a TGDOR on a large scale that would have drawn national attention. The forum I had in mind will shortly be closing for two years for a major renovation. So that idea is out.

    We need an event that will serve notice on the public that the murder of our gender variant community will no longer be tolerated. It’s fine to have many small Days of Remembrance all over the USA and the world, but we need one that will draw media attention to it that can not be ignored. It needs to include the reading of the names of all the gender variant people who were murdered, when, where, and, especially, how. One can not help but be moved to tears when one reads of people being stabbed 90 times. One can not help but be moved to tears when one reads of the murder of a gender variant child by her father. This would be similar to the reading of names at the site of the World Trade Center.
    This needs to be done somewhere in November 2008. We really need to do this, somehow.

    Back in the 1930’s, if someone had stood up and said, “Hell, no. We aren’t going to take this violence against us any more,” perhaps the lives of six million people would have been saved.

    There are almost 400 names now on the list of murdered gender variant people.

    I believe the time has arrived for us to speak up, and say, “Hell, no. We aren’t going to take this violence against us any more.”

    We really need to do this before it’s too late.

  4. stellewriter says:

    Thanks for the audit. It seems at best that is all that it is worth to those in general society. I suppose in comparison to a jumbo jet going down and a few hundred deaths, a few trannies means nothing. How many look at the front page news and barely take a breath as they turn to the comics or stock page. In all of the working of the HRC and the media there is no sense of loss.

    I am afraid that this will continue until we are slaughtered in teh day light for all to see. Some how we need to demonstrate ourselves in number and with resolve. I do not believe that will happen as long as we continue to in fight and trash each other. As long as we do not fully show appreciation for our differences and individuality.
    As long as we fight amongst ourselves, these tragedies are in vain and mean nothing.

    We are starting to see he community come together in protest, and I hope to grow and stand with unique identity. Not as a segment of some larger agenda, but one of our own. The start was at Stonewall, perhaps it is time to stand and shout!

    For us the cost is everything, and it is worth the sacrifice. Let us not waste that which has already been given, or that which tragicaly has been taken.

  5. stellewriter says:

    Thanks for the audit. It seems at best that is all that it is worth to those in general society. I suppose in comparison to a jumbo jet going down and a few hundred deaths, a few trannies means nothing. How many look at the front page news and barely take a breath as they turn to the comics or stock page. In all of the working of the HRC and the media there is no sense of loss.

    I am afraid that this will continue until we are slaughtered in teh day light for all to see. Some how we need to demonstrate ourselves in number and with resolve. I do not believe that will happen as long as we continue to in fight and trash each other. As long as we do not fully show appreciation for our differences and individuality.
    As long as we fight amongst ourselves, these tragedies are in vain and mean nothing.

    We are starting to see he community come together in protest, and I hope to grow and stand with unique identity. Not as a segment of some larger agenda, but one of our own. The start was at Stonewall, perhaps it is time to stand and shout!

    For us the cost is everything, and it is worth the sacrifice. Let us not waste that which has already been given, or that which tragicaly has been taken.

  6. stellewriter says:

    Thanks for the audit. It seems at best that is all that it is worth to those in general society. I suppose in comparison to a jumbo jet going down and a few hundred deaths, a few trannies means nothing. How many look at the front page news and barely take a breath as they turn to the comics or stock page. In all of the working of the HRC and the media there is no sense of loss.

    I am afraid that this will continue until we are slaughtered in teh day light for all to see. Some how we need to demonstrate ourselves in number and with resolve. I do not believe that will happen as long as we continue to in fight and trash each other. As long as we do not fully show appreciation for our differences and individuality.
    As long as we fight amongst ourselves, these tragedies are in vain and mean nothing.

    We are starting to see he community come together in protest, and I hope to grow and stand with unique identity. Not as a segment of some larger agenda, but one of our own. The start was at Stonewall, perhaps it is time to stand and shout!

    For us the cost is everything, and it is worth the sacrifice. Let us not waste that which has already been given, or that which tragicaly has been taken.