Transgender Day of Remembrance

Tamiko Beyer
November 19, 2010
Comments 2

I’m feeling under the weather today, so this will be an abbreviated version of the post I had planned to write today.

Every year in November the LGBTQ community holds a space – memorials, events, tributes – for those who have been murdered because of our society’s transphobia. From the Transgender Day of Remembrance website:

The Transgender Day of Remembrance was set aside to memorialize those who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. The event is held in November to honor Rita Hester, whose murder on November 28th, 1998 kicked off the “Remembering Our Dead” web project and a San Francisco candlelight vigil in 1999. Rita Hester’s murder – like most anti-transgender murder cases – has yet to be solved.

Although not every person represented during the Day of Remembrance self-identified as transgender – that is, as a transsexual, crossdresser, or otherwise gender-variant – each was a victim of violence based on bias against transgender people.

I had planned to tease out some thoughts I have about misogyny being at the root cause of violence against trans, genderqueer, and gender-nonconforming folks. That is, people who upset the gender binary in their gender expression and presentation are especially threatening because they challenge the ways a “man” or a “woman” is supposed to dress/act/look/have sex, etc. Without these clear demarcations, how does male hegemony hold on to its power? I think this is what lies at the root of bullying of children who are perceived as gay. I had started to articulate some of these thoughts in the comments section of Jasbir Puar’s excellent critique of the It Gets Better Campaign, and I wanted to explore a bit further here, but my body defeats my brain today. I hope to pick this thread up again another time.

For now, in honor of the Transgender Day of Remembrance, I wanted to share a video I love of Marsha P Johnston, a transgender activist and performer who died in 1992. Her death was ruled by the police as suicide, but many people think she was murdered.

I wrote a poem that included an excerpt from this performance, which Kate Bornstein and S. Bear Bergman kindly included in their anthology Gender Outlaws : The Next Generation. I recently finished reading it, and I really appreciated the range of voices, positions (!), and politics (not to mention a variety of genres, including some great graphic arts/comix pieces) that Bornstein and Bergman include. I think it’s a useful snapshot of where transgender/genderqueer/gender noncomforming folks and their allies are at right now.

Some highlights for me included

  • Azadeh Arsanjani’s terse, powerful poem “Jihad” which ends with these fabulous lines “that on the glorious day when I come home / jihad / my bags will be full of meat and fruits / queer / we hunger together, and we will feast together.”
  • cory schmanke parrish’s charming and hilarious story, “the secret life of my wiener”
  • Mercedes Allen’s “Trans-ing Gender: The Surgical Option,” that is the best thing I’ve read so far that questions the assumption that transfolks need surgery to be legitimately trans (or legitimately a man or a woman if that’s how they identify)
  • Scott Turner Schofield’s succinct nonfiction essay “The Wrong Body,” in which he beautifully argues against the notion that he was born in the “wrong” body
  • Micha Cardena’s fascinating reflection on a performance art piece she performed, living 365 hours immersed in Second Life as a dragon, as she was also starting her hormone replacement therapy in “real” life: “I am Transreal: a reflection on/of Becoming Dragon,”
  • simon iris’s “make me a vessel for anomaly,” a lovely cross-genre piece that claims and makes space for a body/life that is both boy and girl and more.

I hope you pick up the book; it’s well worth the read.

Signing off now, in hopes of better body and mind sharpness next week.

2 thoughts on “Transgender Day of Remembrance

  1. Jay, Lots to say about the IGB campaign, and one is that it *does* deserve credit – I think it has made a difference for some people to have access to the stories have emerged from this viral campaign. (Is it an institution already? Maybe.) And indeed, it’s been heartening to see the smart critiques that have called out its problematic premise. The LGBT movement has existed in the space of tension between those who want to/have the ability be perceived as “just like straight people” and those who can’t/won’t. The marriage debate is part of this tension, and I think some of the issues brought up by the IGB campaign and ensuing internal critique is part of this dynamic. Anyway, thanks for your response and for reading. Hugs from across the country!

  2. Tamiko– This post led me down the rabbit hole of conversation around It Gets Better. What a set of arguments! I think any institution that’s as open to internal critique as is, by design, IGB, gets some credit, even if it repeats the same arguments about class mobility and blending that society as a whole makes. Anyway. Fascinating, headscratching, upsetting stuff. Thank you for this post.

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