Lost lives honored at Transgender Day of RemembranceBottom Highlights, Commentary, Online Only Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016
SAN DIEGO — Thursday, Nov. 17, over 100 members and allies of San Diego’s Transgender community held a march and ceremony to embrace transwomen and transmen who lost their lives to violence this past year.
The Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) is held yearly on or around November 20, to memorialize those murdered as a result of transphobia, as well as to call attention to continuing violence against the transgender community. TDOR was started in 1999 by Gwendolyn Ann Smith, and has evolved from an internet project to a day of community action and reflection.
San Diego’s TDOR event this year started with a march from the Hillcrest LGBT Center on Centre Street down University Avenue to 10th Street, and back again. Several marchers held signs: WE REMEMBER HATE CRIMES AIMED AT THE TRANSGENDER COMMUNITY and REMEMBER THOSE WHO KILL HAVE LEARNED TO HATE. The marchers also held flickering candles, in a ritual going back centuries to ancient pagan rites. Light is considered a life-giving force. Here, it shows that the memory of those who lost their lives will not be swallowed by the darkness, but will continue to burn bright.
After the march, Connor Maddocks of Project Trans hosted the ceremony held at the LGBT Center. He started by saying “Every year I hope there is no list [of murdered transwomen and transmen] and that we don’t need to have this day”. He also noted that “With this past election [victory of Donald Trump], more than ever we all need to be together and work together”. He gave a plea for the community to end its infighting and facebook wars, and said “We’re not going to get through the next four years if we can’t do this”.
This year, the names, dates of death, and personal backgrounds of twenty six murdered transgendered persons were read out by volunteers, each speaking in the first person. The ages of the slain ranged from 16 to 43 years old. The causes of death included gunshot wound, stabbing, and blunt force trauma. The murders took place in states all across the nation, including Maine, Virginia, Maryland, Florida, Ohio, Alabama, Louisiana, Idaho, Texas, Arizona, and California. In the vast majority of cases, there were no witnesses and no arrests. Significantly, the local media often misgendered the victims as a final insult.
Connor reminded the audience “We’re losing many in our community -way too many- to murders in Mexico. We need to offer a special remembrance for those sisters across the border because they’re part of our family”. Accordingly, this year’s Transgender Day of Remembrance featured two guest speakers from the Latin American community, Nicolette Ibarra and Giselle De La Rosa.
Nicolette spoke first about the continuing violence against transpeople in Mexico. There has been a continuing series of murders of transpeople all across Mexico, including Chiapas, Guanajuato, Chihuahua, and Baja California. “Many were sex workers but not all, and sex workers need to be respected, too”. In addition, a newly created conservative and transphobic coalition called El Frente Nacional por la Familia held a recent series of marches throughout Mexico. They oppose marriage equality, stand against child adoption by same sex couples, and accuse the transgender movement of spreading a malignant “ideology of gender”. Nicolette warns us “There are others whose weapons are words. Words of anger, hatred, disgust and exclusion. The mouth that defiles our existence is just as guilty as the bloodstained hand that murders us”.
But at the same time, several transgender organizations are doing positive work for the community. The Centro De Atención Integral a Personas Trans is directed by Rubi Juarez (www.facebook.com/caiptac/ ). The Unión de ‘Trans’ de las Californias is directed by Tita Viveros. At a time when some are threatening to build walls and fences, Nicolette reiterates that ”Good bridges and good doorways make for good communication between neighbors”. And finally, what can San Diegans do to support transgender family on the other side of the border? “Be informed about and involved in efforts to protect and empower the transcommunity in Mexico”.
Giselle De La Rosa spoke next of the transgender struggle on the individual level. She started by thanking the United States for offering her many chances for advancement. “I’m a woman with many dreams…and I’ve fought to make my dreams a reality,” she says. She also spoke of the difficult reality of many transgender people having to support themselves as sex workers, because of a prejudiced and exclusionary job market. “We’re not here to be society’s sex objects. Human beings were never meant for this”. The solution, Giselle says, is “to create spaces where we can develop, and lose our fear”.
Miss Venice, aka Pepper Price, gave a stirring rendition of the Gospel song “I Feel Like Going On”, and told the audience “Let’s love each other more, let’s be in each other’s corner”. Guests at the event included Toni Duran (Field Representative for California State Senate member elect Toni Atkins) and Adriana Martinez (Liaison to the LGBT community for City Councilmember Todd Gloria). The Imperial Court of San Diego was represented as well, by Emperor Summer Lee, Prince Royale Romeo Anderson-Comancho, Princess Royale Barbie Z and Board President Michael Lochner. Connor noted “The Court has been part of our trans community since Day One”.
The Day of Remembrance planning committee included Arin McNeese, Kathie Moehlig, Anna and Cory Craver, Irina Segade, Meredith and Ellen Vezina, Christine Garcia, Morgan Townsend, Espio Vasquez, Tyler Renner and Joe Zavala. Sponsors of the event included The San Diego LGBT Community Center, Kroger Specialty Pharmacy, San Diego Girls of Leather, Windy’s Flowers, Stepping Stone San Diego, the Hillcrest Business Association, the Stonewall Citizens Patrol and San Diego Pride. Event security for the march was provided by the San Diego Police Department, with special thanks to Transgender Liaison Christine Garcia.
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