Tuesday the 20th is the Transgender day of Remembrance. The problem is that most people don’t have someone to remember. So here is what I wish people would remember; that in the western world, no other group has a higher murder rate than transgender individuals. And t-women usually aren’t murdered, they are lynched. We don’t like to think that lynching goes on in Canada, the USA, and the UK but it does. You could put up a scaffold in front of the Capitol, and hang a transitioning woman on it and tell the police, “I had a sex with………it, I didn’t know what I was doing” and you have a 50% chance of getting off, and at least some sort of reduced sentence. In the movie Licensed to Kill, Arthur Dong’s documentary about men who kill homosexuals, in the extras there is an interview with a man who killed a t-woman. He used the word “it” to refer to this human being he had killed through the entire interview. He had killed her in a particular brutal way. He was the only person in the entire documentary who hadn’t been sent to jail; he was in a mental asylum and would soon be released.
I guess what first drew me to note the deaths of, in particular, t-women was the type of prolonged and exaggerated deaths. These deaths, so brutal to almost seem out of some ancient and foreign war would usually result with a jury of 12 assumed sane individuals saying “Well, since they didn’t say they were transgender, I guess stabbing them over 60 times is kinda reasonable.” I remember, about four years ago, reading about a t-woman who had been tortured with a knife for over two days, stabbed repeatedly, before being set on fire while alive. I remember it distinctly because it was in one of the states which don’t collect hate crime stats, like Alabama for instance (I actually believe it was Alabama). And they had a quote from the local sheriff saying, “We’re not investing this as a hate crime.” Geee, tortured and set on fire, yeah, I’m not seeing any hatred there. Then there was the young teen in New York who was chased for several blocks before falling down; the man who had just had sex with her stood over her, fired into the body, the gun jammed, he RELOADED the gun, and fired until the gun was empty. He said something like they all say, “It was the heat of the moment, I just did what anyone would do.” What ANYONE would do? The problem is that almost every city, if you dig enough has at least one murder like this; if not at least one serial killer targeting ONLY t-women. And, I guess it is what anyone would do because I don’t remember the type of panic surrounding the Washington Snipers when in the same city a few years before, EMTs made jokes while Tyra Hunter bled to death. What, we have to ask, is so wrong in a society that the same people who would run into a dangerous environment to save a dog, would make jokes and laugh while watching a human die?
I wish I had a better memory with names, I don’t remember their names and I’m sorry, though because I am a story teller I remember the stories. Indeed, a few stories, I searched again and again to find their names. There was one transitioning woman from the projects who volunteered for teaching kids to do jump rope - and took them out the projects for a competition. I remember that she was considered a local joke. That she was often supervised while with children. She took a group to Atlantic City and had missed the deadlines, the officials wouldn’t budge so she took the kids; aged 11-13 to the beach. Two of the children swam out too far and she swam out and rescued them. She drowned rescuing them. I remember because I didn’t think you heard stories like this anymore; someone dying while rescuing children. I remember that the locals in her hometown had the opinion post death that, “I guess she wasn’t all bad....for a tranny.” I think if it has been someone else they would have been nominated or won some award.
When I was living in the UK I remember one particular newspaper story, a local boxing coach had come out and announced to the club that her name was (oh this eludes me, it was something very British, like Doris). She was stabbed to death that evening by one of the boxers from her own club. I remember thinking, “She wasn’t able to live even ONE DAY as herself before she was killed.” Truth be told is that I almost prefer the sadistic brutality of the US and Canada to the stories when I was in the UK. I remember in the Guardian there were two stories in ONE DAY. A transitioning female who worked at Tesco’s had been brutally bullied by co-workers over months and went home and hung herself. The father stated that his SON was a mentally ill alcoholic and this was probably best. I mean, her own father.... The second story was about a transitioned woman who has put up with harassment by pretty much everyone in a small town for TEN YEARS and the day before had simply walked out in front of a bus. I remember these stories because, MY GOD, ten years? But that both of them had the same sort of editorial tone: it is probably for the best. Hmmm, that’s odd, because when a man just suddenly stabbed a gay man to death on a bus in London a few years ago, Ken Livingstone made a comment about how intolerable it was in this day and age.
So what is there to remember? I think we should remember Mea Culpa – It is our fault. Society is made up of individuals and if the US somehow figured out that killing black men in the 1950’s was NOT OKAY, maybe it is time we as individuals should figure out that human rights and dignity are just that; rights and dignity for every single human; not just the ones we look like, or identify with. If we are unwilling to say, “This is unacceptable” when a transperson is discriminated against, when violence is done to them, then we are telling the world the limitations of US, not them.
Anyway, early this week Marla gave me for an award as a Wonder Woman. And I get to give it to two people. So this is given equally to Sara from Moving Right Along because she has been teaching me that being labeled “terminal” doesn’t mean you actually stop living; and equally for every transwoman; not just because coming out and telling the truth is likely the most dangerous decision they will ever make but because they are living daily in a world which often gives them hatred and scorn for an act of courage and determination.
Since it is November 20th, what do you think we should remember to make our society a better place, a place where transgender people don’t have to live in fear?
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