It’s Been Twenty Years and We Are Still Remembering.

Posted: October 28, 2019 in for your reflection, Queer Thoughts, Real Food For Thought, resistance, Saying it like it should be said., Trans Liberation, We remember, We want justice now!

It’s Been Twenty Years and We Are Still Remembering!
By Jerimarie Liesegang

In 1999, Gwendolyn Ann Smith started the Transgender Day of Remembrance to memorialize the murder of (transgender woman) Rita Hester (a East Hartford Native) in Allston, Massachusetts. The TDOR has slowly evolved from the Remembering Our Dead Names list started by Smith into a national and then an international Remembrance and day of action.
In 2002, Ct TransAdvocacy (It’s Time, Connecticut) held Connecticut’s first Transgender DOR (Click here to view the 2002 event on CtTransArchives). In that year we remembered 15 US transwomen brutally murdered, many of them trans women of color. Including the brutal murder of Gwen Araujo, a 17 year old who had been living in their preferred gender role for approximately a year and a half. During a house party, she was revealed to have been more a male. After this revelation, at least three individuals allegedly beat her, dragged her into a garage, and strangled her, before disposing of her body in a remote location 150 miles away.

Yesterday the NYTimes ran an article with the title:

The killings, many of them against transgender women of color, have deeply disturbed groups already familiar with threats to their safety.
According to this article, the AMA is declaring the alarming rate of Trans Murders an epidemic. In the United States this year, at least 18 transgender people — most of them transgender women of color — have been killed in a wave of violence that the American Medical Association has declared an “epidemic.” The killings, which have been reported across the country, have for some prompted a heightened sense of vigilance.

And of course we must note that statistics do not capture the full list of Trans murders since many go unreported, dismissed as a murder of a sex worker, not to mention the many hate crimes other than the ultimate crime of murder. A well known example is the highly probable murder of Marsha P. Johnson. (per wiki: Shortly after the 1992 pride parade, Johnson’s body was discovered floating in the Hudson River. Police initially ruled the death a suicide, but Johnson’s friends and other members of the local community insisted Johnson was not suicidal and noted that the back of Johnson’s head had a massive wound.)

I had never thought that on that day of November 20th, 2002, that we would be remembering AT LEAST 18 brutal US Murders in 2019 ~ Twenty Years after the first Official Remembering Our Trans Dead!!!! We need to continue to remember each year, if not each day, and say Presente! for each of our trans comrades who have been brutally murdered simply for being who they are. BUT we must do more than just remember, since for far too many years, even preceding 1999, we continue to loose our families due to Hate and insensitivity to sex/gender fluidity. I recall that after Gwen’s murder, we had discussions that the community needs to work with our youth to empower them to learn how to be Out and assure they maintain safe surroundings, especially when having sex. Though we know the issue is much deeper and more complex than that simple view. I do view this in two lenses:

Hatred towards those of us who transgress the gender/sex boundaries, resulting in harassment, job/housing losses, brutal beatings and many other Hate related actions. Hopefully the more we are Out, Visible and Advocating for our Communities, in time we can overcome this societal Hate. Though I do fear that peoples ignorance and acceptance to us who transgress sex and gender, will not be overcome anytime soon. Though I do agree things are somewhat better for us today, generally, than it was twenty years ago.

The other lens is that when we analyze the murders, many are of trans women who are sex workers. Some may be sex workers for it is their choice and for others it is a means of marginal economic survival. If we look at the statistics, we know that unemployment (especially among trans women of color) is extreme. Below are the statistics from the National LGBTQ Task Force and National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC):

Black transgender people had an extremely high unemployment rate at 26 percent, two times the rate of the overall transgender sample and four times the rate of the general population.
A startling 41 percent of Black respondents said they had experienced homelessness at some point in their lives, more than five times the rate of the general U.S. population.
Black transgender people lived in extreme poverty with 34 percent reporting a household income of less than $10,000 per year. This is more than twice the rate for transgender people of all races (15 percent), four times the general Black population rate (9 percent), and eight times the general U.S. population rate (4 percent).
Black transgender people were affected by HIV in devastating numbers. More than one-fifth of respondents were living with HIV (20.23 percent), compared to a rate of 2.64 percent for transgender respondents of all races, 2.4 percent for the general Black population, and 0.60 percent of the general U.S. population.

We MUST address the Economic Justice for all communities, but we in the Trans and Gender Fluid communities, as well as our Allies, must do much more to address the barriers to Economic Justice for our Black Trans comrades!!

And I cannot simply just write about this and NOT do something to address this economic inequality. This is one reason I created CT TransAdvocacy many years back and we did a lot of one on one Advocacy to address access to employment, training, education, housing, etc. After nearly twenty years, I was getting burned out and felt I needed to spend time with my life partner Anja and heal myself. Well after a few years of Hiatus, I have rested enough and like Mother Sylvia who also took a respite after Pride 1973, came back full Sylvia throttle with the Amanda Milan murder. I am not Sylvia, she was a force of her own, but her work with queer homeless youth and oppressed communities and her outrage to a system that keeps their boot on our necks should be an inspiration to all of us!

I know we have some amazing folks like Ethan, Tony, Dru and Teo, as well as others, have been relentless in their advocacy and activism and it is time we all work to address the systemic causes of these horrific murders, not by just passing laws that assure convictions post their murders, but to go to the root cause and address the Economic and Social Injustices our community suffers!

Furbirdsqueerly Note:

Jerimarie Liesegang is the mother of the Ct. Transgender Movement. She was the founder of Ct.TransAdvocacy, a published writer, a activist in the anti-war, justice and human rights movements. She is currently working on her site Ct. TransArchives found HERE and has just finished a documentary on the life of Sylvia Rivera, “Sylvia Rivera, She Was More Than Stonewall.” Furbirdsqueerly has published some of Ms. Liesegang’s writings and enter this list for your viewing. Jerimarie Liesegang, who we are proud to call our comrade, friend and fellow troublemaker. Yes we are happy that in this world our paths have crossed and we have come together to try to make this world a bit of a better place.

Some articles that have appeared on our blog.

  1. Tyranny of the State and Trans Liberation found HERE.
  2.  The Myth of the 99% found HERE.
  3.  When Paris Was Burning, Hartford Sizzled. A wonderful documentary on the drag balls of Hartford Ct. found HERE. 
  4.  Holy Matrimony Batman found HERE.

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