I was asked to speak at the Transgender Day of Remembrance out on Cape Cod. It was an honor to speak. I thought I would share the talk I presented. I did go off script just a little bit, but for the most part, this was what I presented.
369 trans, non-binary and gender-variant people were murdered in the 12 months from 1 October 2017 to 30 September 2018.
In 2017, advocates tracked at least 29 deaths of transgender people in the United States due to fatal violence, the most ever recorded. However, 2018 has already seen at least 22 transgender people fatally shot or killed by other violent means.
One was, Christa Leigh Steele-Knudslien, 42, who was found dead in her home on January 5 in North Adams, Massachusetts. Steele-Knudslien organized and produced the Miss Trans New England and other pageants and was loved and known by many in both the local and national trans community.
Add to these numbers, the over 40% suicide rate which has been further exacerbated by the current administrations actions against the transgender community.
When I made the decision to once again try to transition, I also discussed it with my wife that I would do this publicly. It was my hope that in being somewhat well-known as a Mason that it would bring some attention. Having also been a writer, I chose to start a series that I called Not A Life Choice that provided the medical and psychological evidence that shows that what we, as transgender folk, experience, is real. It is not a life choice! My series chronicles all that we must go through to just be ourselves.
One thing that I have heard expressed lately is that people are scared. I have heard some who feel they need to stop their transition. Some have gone to the extreme of talking about leaving the country.
I chose to stand as a light. I chose to try to educate and inform. I chose to try to remove the veil of hate and ignorance. At times, I feel I am failing in this. When I hit those points, I look at the statistics we share today. I look at those who have lost their lives just for being. I look at those who are scared and try to be a beacon of light. I try to tell them to not fear the shadows for if there is a shadow, there is a light shining somewhere.
President Obama heard our stories and was moved to institute protections for the transgender community. Unfortunately, at this time, hate and ignorance prevail and those protections have been rescinded by a mean-spirited administration that seeks to erase us. Know this, President Trump; We Will Not Be Erased!!!!!
Rather than pushing us back in the closet, I have heard many of my trans brothers and sisters speak out. Many are becoming more active within the community. Many are standing up and being heard.
To paraphrase the President’s speech in Independence Day:
And as we remember the fallen on this day, know that this day will inspire us to stand up for ourselves, that we will seize the day and the world will hear us declare in one voice: “We will not go quietly into the night!
Now is not the time to regress and suppress but rather to support and inspire. There are too many lives that depend on us all to come together as one and help those who are to follow to be able to live in a loving and accepting world. It is time to squelch hate and ignorance. It is time to tell our stories and to be who we are unshackled by the limits of societal norm. We must remember those who fought for our rights at Stonewall. We cannot allow hate and ignorance to push us back into the closets. We must continue to fight hate and ignorance with truth and justice. We must continue to educate and inform until all manner of discrimination is eradicated. My weapon is my pen. (Okay, nobody uses pens anymore) I will continue to write in hopes of educating and removing the veil of hate and ignorance from the eyes of those who wish we did not exist.
I shared on Facebook a flowchart of what we must go through just to get to where we are. I received a few comments about how they thought I was brave and how they did not know just how involved it was. In this case, it took a pictorial representation to show what we go through. So we must use all the tools, all the media formats available, to educate and remove ignorance. We must continue to be lights shining in the darkness for others who are scared and unsure. We must always show love, compassion, and caring. We must not retaliate against ignorance but educate and inform. We must continue to work until we never have to have another Day of Remembrance and never have to honor another senseless death. We must push to ensure that police recognize our transgender brothers and sisters and call them out when they misgender them in news reports or police reports.
My heart to your heart, one heart, one spirit!!