This is a guest post by C. L. Minou. C. L. Minou has written on trans and feminist issues for the Guardian’s Comment Is Free, Change.org, and Tiger Beatdown. She blogs at The Second Awakening.
[TW for transphobia]
I don’t remember when I first heard of the Trans Day of Remembrance. It must have been at least five or six years ago, when I was just beginning to connect the private tortures of my transness to larger societal concerns. I can’t, to be honest, remember very well my reaction to it. Probably something along the lines of “that’s a good idea.”
I mention this not to give you insight into the Banal Morality of C. L. Minou, but because it seems that nowadays some trans folks are turning against TDOR. Not just the various observances of it, but against the entire concept of having a day to remember the murdered trans people of the previous year. “It’s depressing,” say some. “Where is the positive day?” say others. “Why do we only talk about the depressing deaths, when trans people have accomplished so much?”
And some say, “why should I care about a bunch of prostitutes who have no bearing on my life?”
I’m not going to dispute the first two points. Yes, indeed, remembering the deaths of people who died simply because of who they were is depressing–horribly depressing, and it’s horrible that every year there isn’t a shortage of names to add to the list. And of course trans people are doing amazing things: becoming judges, working in government, bravely taking a stand against ongoing discrimination. These are all amazing things and we should celebrate them.
But that still doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have a day to remember the dead, or exchange that day for one of unfettered celebration.
Because, frankly, there isn’t all that much to celebrate, not really, not for the great majority of the trans people in the world. For a fortunate few transition is a relief, a difficult obstacle but one that can be overcome and bring a new and more fulfilling life. But for the rest–for the people who don’t live in cities that protect their privacy or guard against their discrimination; for the poor who lack even the basics of care like hormones; for the ones already suffering from racial, religious, or ethnic prejudices–for them, every day is a crisis, and surviving the only celebration they can afford.
Easy enough for me to say; I am one of the fortunate few, after all. Three hundred and sixty-four days a year I can avoid thinking about the trans folk who weren’t so lucky, who have so little in common with me.
Or it least it would be pretty to think so. But that’s a fiction. Because I am like them. A knife’s edge separates almost every trans person in the world from success and failure–or even death. Here, a successful trans woman lives in fear of her colleagues finding out about her history; there, a trans man worries that he will be the first fired when the economy worsens; everywhere, encounters with even the most routine items of daily life take on a risk, an uncertainty, that cis people probably never think about. I am looking for an apartment currently, and I worry about what my credit bureaus will say, not just about my credit, but who I am, since nowadays no purge of financial data is ever really final.
The fact of the matter is that at any moment, I could be at risk simply for being trans. Simply for being me. This is something all marginalized people face–certainly, it’s something every woman in the world understands. But just as it’s possible for the shielded women of the world to sniff at the poor and unprotected and blame them for their own misfortunes, so its possible for the lucky trans people of the world–the professors with tenure, the software engineers with rare abilities, the fortunate few who have managed to avoid most of the ways society turns people into others, to disclaim connection with the rest of the trans world. Rape happens only to people who live in slums, and transphobic murder only to prostitutes turning tricks for street ‘mones.
Except when it doesn’t.
So I will Remember today. I will remember because that body lying somewhere unmourned could be me. Because it is me. I mourn because remembering makes me angry, energizes me to fight again. I mourn because we don’t have all that much to celebrate today, not really, not when even the most elemental of basic protections elude the vast majority of trans people the world round. I won’t shrug or carp about how there’s so much death brought up today. Because there is a lot of death. And that needs to be remembered, to be brought up, to be shoved in the face of those who are indifferent to it until something changes, really changes, and trans people are allowed to join the human race.
I’ll celebrate then.
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