Transgender Day of Remembrance (officially observed on Nov. 20) was established in 1999 to memorialize Rita Hester, a Black trans woman who was brutally murdered the year before—the fourth murder to devastate the Boston trans* community in three years. Her murder remains unsolved, as do many of the crimes committed against trans* and gender-nonconforming people.
Sadly, this year is no different. As the official website reports, hundreds of transgender people have been slain since November 2012, more than a dozen of them right here in the United States.
It’s essential to note, however, that the compiled list is not exhaustive. Most countries do not keep records of their transgender victims – the statistics we have are made available through the tireless work of advocates who faithfully track the news, comb the internet, and gather stories from communities all over the world in their effort to memorialize “those who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice.”
Just as tragic as the fact that these numbers only indicate recorded murders is the fact that the list does not include those who have fallen victim to suicide and substance abuse. In the face of so much discrimination and violence, suicide and substance abuse are often seen as the only available outlets. Nearly half of transgender youth have reported seriously contemplating suicide and more than a quarter have made a suicide attempt.
But in the face of so much loss and so many disheartening statistics, trans* and gender-nonconforming people continue to boldly declare, “Not One More.” (video)
And they’re not alone: (video)
Jenna Lyles, an organizer with Southerners on New Ground, participated in an action in Georgia yesterday, joining more than a dozen others in blockading the downtown Atlanta ICE office as part of a national campaign demanding the President stop deportations and expand deferred action for all.
Reflecting on the experience, Lyles wrote, “[A]s we honor Trans Day of Remembrance, I am asking myself how many undocumented trans* people are no longer in our communities because of transphobic violence, because of incarceration and private prisons? How many of our folks have disappeared into the detention and deportation machine? Today, as we gather to grieve the trans* deaths that are known to us, what about the many more who the state terrorizes, surveils, cages, and even kills whose names we may never know? How many trans* immigrants have gone into holding cells like the one I sat in yesterday—without the political cover that our movement has built, without the ability to camouflage their queerness, without the protections I had because of my citizenship status? How do we take more collective responsibility for their survival? What do we need to tear down? What do we need to build?”
The National Center for Transgender Equality, one of the nation’s leading transgender advocacy groups, recently released a report highlighting the impact of unjust immigration policies on transgender and gender-nonconforming people. In it they highlighted key areas of increased susceptibility for people who are both transgender and undocumented, including employment insecurity, income and housing insecurity, and the lack of access to affordable and trans-competent healthcare. The study also revealed that of the estimated 267,000 undocumented LGBT people currently living in the U.S., between 20,000 and 50,000 of them are transgender.
Though there are many barriers and much hardship, organizers are also realizing that there is strength to be found in shared struggles. Brent Wilkes, Executive Director of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), said, “We know that transgender Latinos face multiple levels of discrimination in employment, housing, and health security, which is made worse for undocumented transgender people. [LULAC has] supported the inclusion of the full LGBT community in immigration reform legislation because we could not allow any member of our community to be treated differently.”
This week, as we mourn so much death, the movement for justice continues to live on. May we continue to weave our efforts together with hope and strength, dreaming of the day when there is not one more.