November 20 (tomorrow), the annual, solemn, unfortunately necessary Transgender Day of Remembrance marks its tenth anniversary. While some local observances occur on other dates in November for one reason or another, still the 20th is the primary date. This annual observance began in 1999 in San Francisco as a means of memorializing a transsexual who was murdered in November, 1998. The groups that maintain the sobering Remembering our Dead web page and the Transgender Day of Remembrance website track the sickening statistics.
In a downloadable Excel spreadsheet (it also opens in Quattro Pro X3), found at the latter website, names (where known), place, date and what is known about each death are all listed. The main table, listing all known homicides worldwide from 1970 to 2008 lists 419 names. In the United States, eight senseless and needless transgender deaths occurred in 2007, including one due to denial of medical treatment at several medical centers in Texas, and one in California that is sickening. An alleged undocumented alien needed an antibiotic to help recover from an HIV-connected illness. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials denied her access to the antibiotic, so she died in US Federal custody. Yet one more example of the extent to which the current Administration showers contempt on basic human decency and morality.
Through November 18, there have been sixteen such homicides in 2008, including one in Syracuse, NY last Friday, November 14. In this latest case, the transsexual and her brother were sitting in a car when they were shot. As of Monday’s update, the brother was still alive. One more sobering estimate exists. As reported last year, while people generally face a less than 0.0055% chance of becoming a homicide victim, transsexuals face about a 10% chance. This shows that a transsexual’s risk of becoming a murder statistic is over 1800 times higher than the people around her. Add to that the estimate I have seen that 60% of all transsexuals have been assaulted, and it can be seen that life truly is uncertain for transsexuals.
Over the last decade a few trans community murders have been turned into movies. Three that I have seen include A Girl Like Me: the Gwen Araujo Story, about a California high school aged male to female transsexual who was tortured, killed and buried by a quartet of male classmates, Boys Don’t Cry, a telling of the short life of Brandon Teena, a female to male transsexual brutally murdered in a small town in Nebraska solely because of his difference, and Soldier’s Girl, about US Army Private Brandon Winchell, beaten to death with a baseball bat by mentally unstable members of his unit because he was dating a male to female nightclub singer/entertainer at a bar near their Kentucky base. Even though he wasn’t transsexual, I feel it is appropriate to include his name on the list since his acceptance of a transsexual as normal directly led to his death.
When will this senseless killing stop? It would be a definite benefit to the transgender community if this astronomical homicide rate could be brought back down to a level comparable to the rest of society in a year or two. That, however, is sadly unrealistic. For that to happen, human societies worldwide will need to become more accepting of human diversity in all of its complexities, and will need to learn greater tolerance of individual differences.
Having said that, I choose to be optimistic that humanity will, in time, reach that level of healthiness. In 1963, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr (a childhood hero in my eyes) spoke eloquently of a time when people would be judged on the content of their character, not their skin color. Within me, his eloquent dream lives on, and will live on as long as I live. Building on his dream, I dream of a time when people outgrow the need to judge their fellow human beings.
Scattered across the globe, various appropriate ceremonies will be held to remember the fallen. Not surprisingly, no announced ceremonies or observances are planned in Idaho, where I live. In light of the wide-spread bigotry and resistance to change in this state, it will be quite a while before any events like this can be planned.