This year, we will be saying the names of 57 trans and gender non-conforming people that we know were killed here in the United States over the past 12 months. They represent 15% of the 375 reported deaths globally.
And we need to do more than simply say their names. We need to tell their stories.
We need to talk about EJ Boykin who was the parent of a young child who is now going to grow up without a dad. We need to talk about Kimberly Wirtz who was pronounced dead after she was assaulted and found unresponsive while she was housed in the men’s section of a Maryland prison. And we need to talk about Remy Fennell who was going to school and pursuing a career as a hairstylist.
We also need to talk about the other victims of marginalization and stigma in our country and in our local community.
People like Natasha Keianna who froze to death in her car because she was homeless and had nowhere to go because most homeless shelters won’t take in a person of trans experience. People like Daphne Dorman who committed suicide after being viciously mocked on social media for being a person of trans experience. We need to remember the people in our community who suffer partner abuse and job and housing discrimination. And we need to remember the trans kids who are being bullied and harassed in school every day.
We also need to remember that there are political leaders who are more than happy to make transgender people the targets of hateful legislation and policies all because it inflames their base, stokes their egos, and fills their financial coffers. We cannot forget that there are legislators who refuse to bring the PA Fairness Act to a vote in the Pennsylvania State House and won’t support the Equality Act in Congress and that there are Law Makers who won’t ban conversion therapy.
We can’t forget that there are people – people in our local communities – who believe that making trans folk a target is good politics.
And that’s why we need to talk about visibility.
People say that the more visibility transgender people have the more likely we are to attain equal rights and protections… The more likely we are to gain the acceptance of a society that seems more than happy to have use us as an easy target.
People regularly tell us that we are brave for living our truth. They say things like “I admire you for being visible” or “You are so resilient” – thinking that these are compliments when they do is remind us of the trauma and danger that visibility causes.
Visibility may be a good thing on a macro level, but for Iris and DeeDee and Mel and the other victims of anti-trans violence it was a double-edged sword. Visibility and the intersection of race and housing discrimination and educational disparities and prejudice made them a target. It made them vulnerable and it helped to kill them.
So, who needs to be visible?
It isn’t just trans folk.
It is the people who claim to be our allies.
It is the people who come out one night a year to mourn but who don’t speak up when they hear a transphobic joke.
It is the people who use social media to hashtag that #translivesmatter but who don’t attend school board meetings or write to their state legislators.
It’s the people who have the privilege to be able to turn their backs when it is convenient.
We need to remember… Ally is not a noun… It is a verb. And allyship requires you to take action.
So, we are asking you. We are begging you…
To stand up! To show up! And to fight!
Fight for the people who are living. Fight for the people you see in your community. Fight for the people you don’t know.
Fight. Because the lives of our wonderful family of humans depends on it.
Fight. Because trans lives really do matter.
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