I will never forget. We will never forget, not on this day. We will never forget those brave souls who died struggling to be themselves, asking only for acceptance. These are the ones who realized, often as young children, that they did not fit into society’s gender binary of male and female. We who are enveloped in that struggle carry with us the memory of so many who have gone before us, including those who were murdered by men (yes, it’s always men) who killed them, and those who took their own lives, killed by a society that denied them acceptance.
I am well acquainted with the pain of rejection and have attempted suicide twice, trying desperately to fit in, but knowing full well that I would never truly fit in anywhere. When we were quite young we learned that even though in our hearts we were girls, basic human biology and society demanded that we be boys. We are not sick and we are not crazy. We are people trying to make our outside match our inside and nothing more. But our struggle cannot be fathomed by those who have never questioned their gender identity.
Transgender Day of Remembrance is on Sunday, November 20 this year. It is not a day for wallowing in pity, but rather it is a time we come together to reflect on what we are doing as a community. The vast majority of the people of Stockton do not know one transgender person. Even fewer know what transgender really is. It’s also a time for education, for finding hope and considering how we can create real and lasting change. It’s bad enough being forced to live a lie every day of your life, but living in fear is much worse. And despite the “It Gets Better” campaign, things are getting worse.
Violence in the United States is increasing according to the most recent statistics from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs. There were 2,424 reported incidents of violence against the LGBT community in 2008 (12 percent were against transgender people — an increase of 26 percent since 2006), while the transgender murder rate in 2008 was 28 percent higher than just a year earlier, the highest since statistics were kept in 1999. In a supposedly free country, it is an outrage that anyone should have to fear violence simply because they are trying to be whole.
Very recently a transgender woman was kidnapped and gang raped right here in Stockton. She is going to be fine, thanks to one Stockton policeman who made sure she was cared for properly and respectfully. Several weeks ago I received word that a transgender woman was killed in a random shooting in Stockton, but neither the police, nor the editor of the Record would even return my calls and emails as I tried to connect with the family to provide support and comfort in their time of grief and loss. There is much work to be done in Stockton.
I am so very grateful I was born a transgender woman. All those years of bullying, ridicule and violence made me into a very proud activist. And I truly love what I do in service to this wonderful community of transgender people. I believe things will get better, but I cannot and will not ever forget those who faced violence and death just because they chose to live the truth. That’s why I am so excited about Transgender Day of Remembrance, and why we will hold one every year until transgender people are accepted fully.
Stockton’s 3rd Annual Transgender Day of Remembrance will be held on Sunday, November 20, 2011 at 7:00 pm in the sanctuary of Temple Israel, 5105 N. El Dorado Street (at March Lane) in Stockton. The event is free and open to the public.