By Deja Nicole Greenlaw*/ TRT Columnist—
It’s November and yet another Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) is upon us. This is the day that we memorialize our trans dead of the past year. Gwendolen Ann Smith founded the first TDoR on November 20, 1999 in remembrance of the death of a transwoman, Rita Hester, in Allston, Massachusetts. TDoRs are held all over the world every year in November. Most TDoRs are held on November 20, but many others are held at various times around that date
All the transgender people who have died were violently murdered. In past years, many have been shot, stabbed, beaten with blunt objects, and burned. There was even one death of a toddler who didn’t meet his father’s masculine expectations. The father would drop the son on his head to try to fix the son to somehow make him more masculine. Eventually, there was one drop too many and the child died. This is awful! Why must trans people face awful deaths? How long must this go on?
Many of these deaths were the result of the intersection of transphobia and racism. Our black and brown brothers and sisters bear the brunt of these awful murders. One was even beaten to death and thrown in a dumpster. This is a hard core disregard and disrespect for human life. It’s also unacceptable.
Because of these deaths, there is a huge silent killer in the trans community: suicide. There are no figures on suicide deaths in the trans community. Many times, deaths are just reported in the paper as simply deaths. They don’t say how the person died. If they could somehow find out and report the reason for these deaths, they might find that they are from suicides. Please, also consider that approximately 41% of trans people have attempted suicide and nearly 100 percent, in my opinion, have thought of it. Yes, thoughts of suicide are very common in the trans community.
Keri Stebbins, the executive director of UniTy, the Springfield, Massachusetts trans support group, has known more than a few members who took their lives. Sometimes the world can become very mean to trans people. Words may be said that are humiliating, demeaning, and dehumanizing and this may weigh heavily on the trans person, which may lead them to a dark place. As Keri once told me, “Words can hurt just as much as a stone being thrown, which can then lead to depression and even death.” Keri made a good case for adding transgender suicide victims to the TDoR. Personally, I cannot exclude suicide victims from TDoR, especially if I know the victims.
We need to stop this disparaging of trans people. It can happen anywhere, even in traditionally progressive areas, believe it or not. Diana Lombardi, a close friend, told me what happened to her just this past October during Fantasia Fair, a week-long event in Provincetown, Massachusetts for trans people.
“I was walking down to the Gala Awards Banquet and the ‘Tea Dance’ was going on at the motel and the smokers were all standing out in front of the motel on the road. The tea dance caters to mainly gays and, to some extent, lesbians. Well, while walking out of the motel I had to walk by [this] group of men [and] one of them said, ‘That is an ugly woman!’ and another replied, ‘That’s no woman, that’s a tranny!’ and they all started to laugh. I heard some of them make other comments about ‘trannies.’”
Why don’t these people realize how damaging these words are? These could be the words that push a trans person to their death. This needs to stop, right now, especially in our own LGBTQIAA community.
After I told Keri about Diana’s experience, I asked her what she would say to these people who made fun of Diana. Keri told me that she would say, “Go ahead, laugh at me and call me names if it makes you feel good, but remember back when they did this to you and how it made you feel?” Bingo, Keri, bingo!
We need to stop these damaging actions. We need to stop these awful deaths.
*Deja Nicole Greenlaw is retired from 3M and has three children and two grandchildren.