When it comes to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT+) community, the one least understood, and therefore the most marginalized, are definitely trans folk. Today (Nov. 20th) is Transgender Day of Remembrance, a time to honor all these we’ve lost to anti-trans violence. Though I’ve known about this day for years, it is now growing with increased popularity due to the large amounts of trans activism that is getting attention from the media.
Here is a story I’d like to share about my very first Transgender Day of Remembrance:
I remember being a young activist, the very first one to really do any LGBTQ+ activism work at my high school. I was nervous and anxious, and a tad scared at any backlash I would get (thankfully, there really wasn’t any). But I was in uncharted territory. I did everything by the holy GSA manual, as it had helped me so much before. But I came across a day I wasn’t too familiar with. A day I didn’t quite have any connections too.
I remember kinda just stumbling upon Transgender Day of Remembrance. It was a day that wasn’t celebrated widely, at least where I was from. Coming Out Day was a huge success, as was The Day of Silence earlier in the year. I didn’t know anyone who was trans, and I didn’t know how to go about a remembrance in a respectful way. Mostly, I felt disconnected and confused, but I did what the manual suggested, and eventually settled on a poster that would include important information and resources for trans people, and that would also list the names of trans people we had lost that year.
As I wrote the names, they seemed foreign to me. People I had never met, people I didn’t really know, but nonetheless taken from my community, lost for who they were. I knew it was still important, but I had doubts. Would anybody benefit from this? Would it even have an impact?
It was the day before TDOR. I stayed after school to hang up one of the posters in the glass display case (because I didn’t want it torn down) on the second floor of the main classroom building. The halls were mostly empty, and I didn’t notice anyone standing behind me as I pinned the poster.
As I turned around, I was taken back, as a teacher stood there reading the names I had written so neatly on this black poster. He seemed older, late forties, and was a teacher I never had nor had seen around school before. He was silent for a moment, and I could see him slowly mouthing each name. Other than his moving lips, his face remained emotionless and inexpressive; it was completely unreadable. I had no idea what to say, and I stood there in silence.
“What’s this for?” he asked breaking the silence. The question was asked in a straightforward manner, not rude or particularly inquisitive (as all the information was on the poster and I knew he was asking this more as way to engage me in conversation, rather than seek answers).
“It’s for Transgender Day of Remembrance, an annual day to honor all the people we lost to trans violence.” I replied.
“And these names?” he asked, more curiously this time, pointing to the dozen or so names that were listed on the side.
“They’re every transgender person we lost this year.” I stated. The hall returned back to silence. The teacher again appeared emotionless. Was he confused? Was he angry now? I started to stare at the names myself, feeling ashamed and confused, for a reason I couldn’t quite figure out or understand.
I started to stutter. “I know it’s not many names, I know more people die from so many other things every year and that it’s really not that important…”
He cut me off quickly “It doesn’t matter how many names. It doesn’t matter if it’s just one name. This matters. This is important.” he said, as he pointed at the poster.
I felt even more ashamed now. I realized I had doubted myself, and even more so the LGBTQ+ community, to try to simplify and justify the deaths of the minority to win over some person I never met. I wanted this to be impactful and important and in the end I learned it impacted me more than I ever thought it would.
And just like that, the teacher left.
I stood there, filled with mixed emotion. I was the trailblazer, the activist, I screamed in support with my gay brothers and sisters, but doubted the relevance of trans folk at the same time. I felt ashamed, yet grateful to be reminded that ALL lives matter, ALL lives are important. One name on that poster, and even the names that will never be listed, is one too many. One death is too much. Every since that day, and on every TDOR I look back on that encounter with the teacher who taught me more than an approved curriculum, but a life lesson that I still hold dear to my heart. You’ve encouraged and inspired me. Thank you.
If you are personally not familiar with a trans lifestyle, or have any questions, you can always reach out online and find the answers you need. Or If you need specific places to find resource or information, whether online or more locally, feel free to contact me as well.