Looking out over McMicken Commons, I am troubled by the tiny white flags, each representing a life lost to hatred and violence. There are over 250 flags, and I know I am not the only one who noticed. Students on their way to morning classes are looking down as they pass through, reading the names and causes of death written on the flags. Though very few stop at our table for more information, I can see them taking in the message: our people are being murdered at an alarming rate.
Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) is an important day for me, one which takes on many meanings. First and foremost, it is a day to honor trans* people who have been murdered because of transphobia. It is also a day for reflection and awareness as well as a day to remember those who would have otherwise gone unnoticed, not just because they were trans*, but also because many of them were poor, women, people of color, and/or sex workers. For me, participating in TDOR is a humbling experience, a time to check my privilege. Even though I am a trans* person of color, I know that I am still privileged in many ways: not only am I a college student from a middle class background, I am also a transman who is lucky enough to have a job and a community where I can be out without fear of rejection.
TDOR is also a day that reminds us who we are as a society. It is a marker of progress (or lack thereof). I woke up this morning and remembered that we still live in a world where 46% of black transgender people have been harassed, 15% physically assaulted, and 13% sexually assaulted at work; a world where 50% of black transgender people said they had been compelled to sell drugs or do sex work for income at some point in their lives. We still live in a world where 78% of school age transgender or gender nonconforming youth reported being harassed and 35% reported being physically assaulted. When I look at statistics like this, I am reminded of how lucky I have been and how much work is yet to be done. TDOR is a day of mourning, but it is also a day of empowerment, a day to remember that there is a long road ahead of us and, perhaps most importantly, that we cannot accept LGB victory as trans* victory. The LGBT community has a long history of leaving out the T, and today is a day to remember why such actions are unacceptable.
Finally, TDOR is not meant to be the one day out of the year that we think about trans* issues; it does not give us permission to forget about them tomorrow and pretend they’re not happening. TDOR is about an awareness that we must bear everyday until the violence, hatred, and discrimination end.