Reflections on 10th Annual Transgender Day of Remembrance
As always, this is a difficult day. I’ve been aware of Transgender Day of Remembrance since its first year, and have always commemorated it in some way each year. Sometimes attending an event if there was one in my region, often lighting a candle at home, and in the last few years, saying something about it to the congregation of our local UU during a Sunday service.
Every death hits me hard. For any transperson, I think there is always a feeling of “there but for the grace of G-d/dess go I”. I transitioned and did over a year long full time real life test in a rural southern town in 1993. No HRT, nada. If angels exist, there was certainly one at my shoulder, for I passed perfectly… as a man with long hair and a baritone voice wearing women’s clothing and jewelry. For the most part, people treated me with respect and used my new name and pronouns however I had a few close encounters during that time in which my possible last moments in this earthly plane were staring at me rather harshly.
As I’ve written previously, I later re-transitioned, and since that time have lived in between or outside binary gender. I don’t live in the same small town, but am still in a rural area. Some people might look at me and automatically perceive male simply based on birth sex characteristics, however if one is observant to subtle cues, they’re fairly likely to perceive something very different. I’m often mam’ed. But if I speak, I see the looks of confusion, and then the quick switch to sir. They’re obviously wondering what I am. Male? Female? Maybe genderqueer? Gay? Transgender? It is an extremely vulnerable place to live, and yet I must be true to myself.
And so, every day is a question for me. As it is for many others in our LBGTIQetc community. Any day could be my last. Today I could become the next person added to this list. Another hate crime statistic. This underlying feeling is pervasive in my psyche. Even when I’m not paying attention, it is there, and I think it affects every choice I make, large or small. What to wear today? Might this clothing be flaunting my difference too much? What to say? Have I just outed myself as transgender to someone who is transphobic? Have I just outed myself to someone who will no longer employ me for my services? And so on. It is a constant stress. This is my constant reality.
Someday, I want to see an end to the need for this day. I want to see a year where I’m not reading news items each week or month of yet another transgender sister or brother who has lost their lives to violence. This Transgender Day of Remembrance should always exist, and I will always honor it, but I want to do so from the vantage point of the way things used to be in some distant past, not the way it continues to be in our present. But until that time, on this day today, and every year hence, I will light a candle and say the names of my trans sisters and brothers and remember their gifts to all of us. Blessed be their memories. And today I will be glad that I have managed to live another year as who I am, and that my name isn’t among them.