Reflecting on transgender losses — and looking forward to a better future

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International Transgender Day of Remembrance is Nov. 20.

International Transgender Day of Remembrance is a time to reflect on those who have been killed because of transphobia and hate.  For those who are transgender, genderqueer or non-binary — and their significant others, friends, family and allies (SOFFAs) — not remembering isn’t even a possibility. Because we know that when we leave the house, or when our loved ones leave the house, there is some chance that some person out there will decide our loved one’s gender is wrong or bad. We know there are people in the world who think that violence will fix their own fears, law enforcement officers who think our lives aren’t important, and courts that think panic is a legitimate reason for murder.

What we’d like to see is a day when we can’t remember the violence committed against people who live their genders despite transphobia, who believe in their own dignity and right to exist. What we’d like is a day when the faces of those who were brutally murdered for being who they are don’t flip through our minds as reminders of the fear we need to live with.

We all have privileges! We may be white, we may be cisgender, we may be educated; we may have money and health insurance and the possibility of getting a job without questions about our genders. Most of the transgender people we remember had few or none of those advantages. Too many of the people who are killed every year are people of color, people who do sex work, people who have to decide between horribly risky work and starving.

For some transgender people, it is just the human desire to have companionship that makes them vulnerable to attacks.

While we remember those murdered, we want to celebrate them too. We see a transgender community filled with beautiful, engaged and joyful people. We see people in love. We see people with careers and jobs and families and hopes. We see people with aspirations and confidence.

What we want to see when we look around the transgender community is a great deal of joy. The kind of joy that comes with victory not just over the transphobic world we live in, but with the internalized transphobia all of us share — transgender and cisgender alike.

Helen Boyd and Willem Van Roosenbeek are board members of Fair Wisconsin Education Fund. This statement is adapted from another piece originally written to honor the 2011 Transgender Day of Remembrance.