The past three weeks, with their lengthening yuletide darkness, have been emotionally trying for me. I have been burdened with great sorrow at ongoing oppression and marginalization of my transgender sisters and brothers. At the same time, through my efforts to build community among my sisters and brothers, I have been cheered by their love and hope.
The Atlanta vigils for Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) were held two weeks ago Thursday evening, November 20. The program, venue, reception, and speakers for Atlanta TDOR were all organized by Tracee McDaniel of the Juxtaposed Center for Transformation. I volunteered for the emotionally-exhausting task of preparing the 73 memorial slides, one for each of the transgender women murdered somewhere in this world during the past year. Given that vast regions of the world, particularly Africa, the Middle East, and the former Soviet bloc are inaccessible to GLBT-friendly media, the true number of transgender murder victims is certainly much higher. Even the official TDOR count was not up to date this past November 20th; by the end of the week, the names of six additional transgender women had been added (Memorializing 2014). The last victim reported for 2014 was Gizzy Fowler, found dead of a gunshot in Nashville and improperly identified by police and local news media (Outandaboutnashville). Out of the total of 79 individuals, all transfemale, murdered in 2014, 10 were from the U.S., a nation which claims to be both free and Christian. Nine of the U.S. women were African-American or Hispanic. Brazil is the nation with the most horrific death toll, 59 transwomen murdered in 2014. While Brazil takes pride in its Roman Catholic heritage, three of its 2014 transgender (or gender-variant) victims were children, an 8-year-old and two 16-year-olds. The hatred directed at trans-people of color is no less despicable than the church-sanctioned witch hunts of the Seventeenth Century. It seems as if transgender women suffer the worst of Christian rancor against the Divine Feminine.
My sorrows were consoled by speakers at the TDOR memorial service with their messages of hope, acceptance, and survival. Dee Dee, a leader in the local transgender community, recounted how she survived a brutal attack over ten years ago in Atlanta. Her would-be killer trapped her in his car, having removed the door lock knobs, and stabbed her multiple times. Yet, Dee Dee managed to escape and was picked up by a passerby and taken to the hospital. My dear friend, Cheryl, listed recent victories of both the Transgender and Gay movements: marriage equality, employment protections, and the recent expansion of Medicaid benefits to cover transgender-related health needs. Officer Sharp, of the Atlanta Police Department, related his experience teaching law enforcement officials from Latin American and Caribbean countries about the concept of hate crimes. Several Christian clergy were in attendance at the vigil, a gesture of goodwill I pray becomes more commonplace among established communities of faith. Hence, civil society, rule of law, and the sheer will of individuals to live free, all these forces work to dissipate the darkness of traditional mob-rule.
On Saturday, November 22, my experiences at the AID Atlanta “Gays-Giving” dinner further aided my healing. I caught up with a friend, as we held each other close like two teenage girls. I made new acquaintances of the gay men and transgender women present; I found them all adorable. I even had a chance to play my drums, with one of the young women joining in. It was my first time drumming and singing in public. I’m not confident about my musical abilities, but I performed in a spirit of service to my friends and a spirit of praise to my Great Mother.