For the unfamiliar, the annual Transgender Day Of Remembrance is dedicated to mourning the murders of members of the trans community worldwide. I won’t go into detail, as the speech below by Torontonian Morgan M. Page shows just how complex an issue this is, but hopefully it’ll get you thinking about a community that are still hugely marginalised even in today’s society.
“I’ve heard people say that killing a trans person is easy. But I want you to know that it’s incredibly complicated. I want to make it really complicated for you tonight.
This is the thirteenth annual Trans Day of Remembrance, an event, we’re told, to mourn the murders of people around the world killed for being trans. It seems easy, simple to say that. And, taking a quick look, it seems a lot like this is the simple truth. We don’t always look so hard at the face of brutality, so many people just leave the explanation there, mourn, and move on. Films like Boys Don’t Cry and A Girl Like Me: The Gwen Araujo Story reinforce this perception. And, through this logic, we’ve been sold the idea that adding Gender Identity and Gender Expression – North American Anglophone concepts – to our Charter is the most important part of the struggle for Trans Rights.
But I need you to take a long, hard look into this tonight, because I believe that to honour the dead, we must try to fully understand the circumstances that lead to their deaths.
First, let it known that almost no one on this list is white. The vast majority of the people on this list are Latina, Black, and Asian. And most of them were not in North America or Europe. So, if we truly want to change things so that we don’t need another TDOR next year, we must see the struggle for Trans Rights allied closely with the struggle against racism and xenophobia.
We can also easily see that all, or nearly all, people we’re remembering were on the trans feminine spectrum, or were perceived to be on the trans feminine spectrum. It’s not as easy as saying “they were all trans women,” because not all of them identified as that – many identified with particular cultural labels such as travesti and hijra that don’t quite match our Anglophone idea of trans women, and some didn’t identify as anything trans-related at all but were killed for being perceived to cross gender norms in a male-to-female direction in some way. As well, reading the details of their deaths, we can see that quite a few trans women were murdered by their abusive partners. These two facts show us that the struggle for Trans Rights must include and be included by the struggle against misogyny and violence against women. And that, within our own trans and queers communities, we must fight transmisogyny.
And most of these people were sex workers, working in countries where their professions are criminalized. Many were killed by clients who were well-aware of their trans status – which somewhat eliminates the possibility that the murderers were simply killing them for being trans. We can only understand this as being connected to the broader culture of violence against sex workers. This, combined with the disproportionate number of trans people involved in sex work, should make the struggle of sex workers’ rights and decriminalization of sex work one of the most important things for securing Trans Rights in Canada and around the world.
Given the high rates of HIV in the trans community, it’s very likely that many of these people were HIV positive. And that should make fighting the criminalization of HIV and also fighting for adequate healthcare one of our central concerns in Trans Rights. And many of these people were also migrants, which should make the fight against xenophobia and anti-migrant stigma and laws part of our fight for Trans Rights. And some were probably Indigenous, which should make the fight for Indigenous rights part of our fight for Trans Rights.
Do you see how much more complicated this is? We cannot simply hang our hopes on five words – Gender Identity and Gender Expression – to fix all of these things that lead to 221 people being murdered. We must see our struggle as being inextricably bound up in the struggles of all marginalized people around the world – because trans people and people perceived to cross gender boundaries are part of every single minority around the world, and all of these things together put the weapons into the hands of their murderers.
Not our murderers. Let’s be clear here. It’s been a few years since a trans person was killed in Canada, as far as we know. We’ve been lucky. This violence hasn’t been ours to claim. And that’s not to say that we aren’t still facing violence here. Trans sex workers may be subjected to violence from clients and police and neighbourhood associations on a daily basis. And this week alone, two of my friends were trans-bashed, not too far from here. And trans people in Canada are still facing housing and employment discrimination. And the criminalization of HIV. And beyond all of that, many of us become our own murder weapons – committing suicide because sometimes it just seems too hard to go on.
It’s complicated. I wish that violence against trans people were simple, because simple would be easier to fix, but it just isn’t. We must fix this broken world if we truly want to honour our Ancestors.
Before we read the list of names of the dead, I would like to just remind you all about who is not on this list.
This list does not include those whose deaths went unreported.
This list does not include those whose deaths were not considered important enough for investigation by transphobic police forces and media.
This list does not include the missing and those never reported missing because there was no one to miss them.
This list does not include those incarcerated around the world for their trans status or sex working profession.
This list does not include those who take their own lives because they cannot bare to live in a world that wants us dead.
This list does not include those too afraid of experiencing transphobia from nurses and doctors that they avoid hospitals and die from injuries or illnesses that are fully treatable.
This list does not include those trans people unable to access shelters who freeze to death on our streets.
This list does not include those who’ve died of AIDS, nor those who live on and continue to be affected by it.
This list does not include those being incarcerated for having HIV.
This list does not include those stab wounds, bullet holes, bruises, cuts, welts, or violations that inflicted such great pain but failed to kill us.
This list does not include any of these people, but I’m asking you all not to forget these people tonight.”
And if that’s all a bit doom and gloomy, why not have a watch of the way things could be with this touching (and quite funny) testimonial from a trans Google employee.