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  • Gina Grahame

Transgender Day of Remembrance

On this day of Transgender Remembrance, I think of the many transgender and transsexual sisters I’ve known, but who are not here with me today. Some died by their own hand, some by fate, and some just disappeared.

Most notably is Aleshia Brevard, who was a second mother to me. Aleshia is notable not just for her impact on me and so many others through her career as an actor, teacher, and author, but also because she died at 79 years old. Aleshia transitioned at age 20, in 1957, and lived for 60 years as ‘the woman she was born to be’ (the title of her second book). That is a milestone without parallel in the trans community.

Most of us are not as fortunate as Aleshia. When I began my transition in 1992, I firmly believed I’d die before age 50. More accurately, I believed I would be murdered by a future ex-lover before I turned 50. I had every reason to believe this: through my travels of gender conventions between 1988 – 1994, I never met a transsexual over 45 (the word ‘transgender’ was not common at that time). And when the news spoke of a transsexual, they always seemed to be 18-25, and they’d been murdered.

Conversations at that time centered on who from last year wasn’t there this year, and why. Each of us was under 30 and we all knew the odds of reaching age 40 were slim. Plan for retirement? Please, we were just hoping our family and friends wouldn’t disown us, and that next guy we went out with or found us attractive wouldn’t kill us when they learned of our gender history.

I’d love nothing more than to tell you those worries are ancient history, but I can’t. NPR ran a story in 2016 stating the average life expectancy of a transgender person was 30-32 years old. Those in the Trans Community know that for people of color, especially trans women of color, the life expectancy is even shorter.

I know this is a day when we are supposed to solemnly read the list of names of those who died during the past year,, and I try to do so. At least two or three times during the day, I really try. But I can only take seeing “beaten…. shot… stabbed… decapitated… stoned… tortured… shot… beaten..” so many times until I just want to curl up in a corner, vowing to never set foot out of my house again out of fear of being another statistic.

Why? Why are trans people targeted in such a vicious way? Why does our mere existence set off such rage in men? Do you hate us? Do You fear us? Do you view our being as a betrayal of your masculinity? Is your heterosexual masculinity so paper thin that the mere thought of being attracted to a transperson is justification for murdering them?

And to those who think that taunting, laughing, or bullying a transperson is ok because no one gets hurt, think again. The wounds you cause may not be visible, but I assure you that person is bleeding inside. I know. I’ve been there. More times than I care to remember.

But then I think of the good I can do, and I don’t curl up, I stand up. I think of how I can help those coming up by letting them see that I, we, are here, and that we are thriving. We have careers, we have partners, we have family – blood and chosen. We have love in our lives and we have self-worth!

No one should be excluded from basic human kindness. From enjoying life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. So please, take a moment and read the list of trans people whose lives were taken from them, and how, this past year, Then think of your friends, coworkers or loved ones who are transgender and let them know you are glad they’re here. That they are valued. And that you’ll stand by their side. One day, together, we can eliminate the need for such a list.

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