This November, if you have never been to a TDoR vigil, or if you have been to 10, find the one nearest you and go again
By: Lorelei Erisis*/TRT Columnist—
It’s November my friends. And there are many things I would like to write about. I just returned from Fantasia Fair, for instance. It’s the longest-running transgender event in the world, and I was honored to be a keynote speaker.
And perhaps, I will write about that next month.
There’s also this election, the outcome of which we may know by the time you read this column. An outcome that, however it turns out, will have dramatic consequences for the lives of trans and LGBQ people in this country and the atmosphere in which activists like myself will be working.
I could write about the trans public accommodations law that only very recently went into effect in Massachusetts, or I could focus on the recent efforts of our opponents to get a referendum question on the 2018 ballot to overturn that law.
I really would prefer to write about any of those things. But, as I said, it’s November. And that means it is the month in which we observe the Trans Day of Remembrance.
Yes, I have written about this before and I don’t really like to repeat myself too often in this column. I prefer to keep things fresh, avoid recycling topics when I can.
But as long as trans people are being murdered; as long as our siblings, brothers, sisters and zisters are dying for simply trying to live their lives, then I will write. I will speak, shout, and even scream out to anyone who will hear my words.
We have come a long way in the past few years. Our community is more visible than it ever has been. Trans people are a regular topic in the media. There are more trans actors, comics, models, politicians, and just everyday folks emerging into the spotlight all the time. We even, in a few places, have some halfway decent legal protections.
Yet the slaughter of our people continues. The list grows longer every year. And yes, perhaps part of that is a result of better reporting and increased visibility of trans-identified people. But to my mind that’s even scarier. That means for all the names of the dead we read out at TDoR vigils, there are still so many more we will never know—scores of lives cut short because they were trans like us, Hidden trans lives, unknown and unmourned.
And yes, let me say it, I am lucky. I am so, so very lucky. I’m white. I am often perceived as middle or even upper class simply because of how I carry myself and where I am from. My family is supportive and my friends, for the most part, have stood by me.
I have privilege. Even as a trans woman, as low on that privilege ladder as I have fallen, I am still several rungs up from so many other trans people, especially trans women of color. That privilege gives me access, support, even protections that my trans sisters do not have–that far too many of the dead, the great majority of them in fact, did not have.
And I believe that privilege carries with it a moral imperative to help those who may have less privilege than I do, not in a condescending manner, or in a patriarchal, “I know best what you need” way. It’s more like, using the point of my high heel to wedge open those doors that privilege opens for me and keep them open while others slide in past me—using it to lift up those who need, and want, my help so they may climb higher themselves.
If my own privilege allows my voice to be heard, then I will use it to amplify the voices of others. I will use the spotlight shone on me to bring attention to those trans lives yet left in the dark.
I must do this. It’s the right thing to do—the human thing to do.
I beg you to do the same.
This November, if you have never been to a TDoR vigil, or if you have been to 10, find the one nearest you and go again. Listen to the names of the dead. Think about the real lives attached to those names.
And then, ask yourself what you are doing to prevent more names from being added. What can you do? What will you do?
How can you use your own privilege, however much or little you may possess, to promote, amplify and put forward those trans people who have less? And if you do not know the answer to this, or even if you think you do, remember also to ask those you would help. Ask how you may best support the work they are doing themselves.
Then listen harder and more mindfully than you have ever listened before.
And maybe, just maybe, if we all listen carefully and work as hard as we possibly can to lift each other up and smash down the barriers that hold us all back, then perhaps that list of the dead might finally start getting shorter instead of longer.
Maybe some November I’ll be able to write about something else. I doubt it. But maybe.
*Lorelei Erisis is an actor, activist, adventurer, and pageant queen. Send your questions about trans issues, gender and sexuality to her at: [email protected].
[This column was originally posted on November 3, 2016, the Nov. Issue of The Rainbow Times.]