On Trans Day of Remembrance: Remember Those Lost, Fight Like Hell for the Living

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November 20, 2017

This piece was collaboratively written by Carl Charles, Lambda Legal's Transgender Rights Project Law Fellow, and the Transgender Rights Project.

Today marks the 19th Transgender Day of Remembrance (“TDOR”), which was started in 1998 by Rita Hester, a transgender woman, after witnessing the murders of her transgender friends and community go unacknowledged by the larger LGB community and the media.

It is a day to lift up and honor the lives of the transgender people who were killed during the year for living their truth. So far in 2017, 26 murders of transgender people have been reported in the USA. Nearly all of the victims have been trans women of color.

Because of the intersections of racism and transphobia, trans women of color are substantially more likely to experience discrimination in employment, housing, education, and access to public accommodations than their White peers. As trans women of color are forced to the margins, they are over-policed and under-protected by law enforcement—experiencing disparate harassment and higher rates of incarceration.

Many systems contribute to the negative treatment of trans women of color, including the media. When media continues to misgender and deadname trans people, it affirms the myth that trans people are not who they say they are, and devalues their lives. As a result, it is likely that the number of transgender victims is even higher than recorded, because inaccurate and inappropriate coverage is often not corrected until a transgender victim’s friends or family come forward.

Acknowledging that we must continue to fight against these systems of oppression, we are taking space here to share the names of those we have lost and to reflect on their lives:

Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow of Sioux Falls, South Dakota was 28 and a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe and part of the Sioux Falls Two-Spirit and Allies group. She worked at Lawrence & Schiller TeleServices as a customer service agent, and studied social work at Oglala Lakota College.

Mesha Caldwell of Canton, Mississippi was 41 and was an accomplished hairstylist and makeup artist. She won many hair battles, and hosted competitions in Canton for young people. Mesha possessed a vibrant personality.

Sean Hake of Sharon, Pennsylvania was 23 and a loyal friend with a good heart who, like many people, experienced mental health issues. Sean was killed by a police officer at the home he shared with his parents in an unprovoked and excessive use of force.

Jojo Striker of Toledo, Ohio was 23 and loved by her mother Shanda, and loved by her community.

Tiara Lashaytheboss Richmond of Chicago, Illinois was 24 and the oldest of three girls in her family, by whom she was much loved. She was known as the life of the party. At her vigil there was grief but laughter and love.

Jaquarius Holland of Monroe, Louisiana was only 18 and was a good friend who loved and accepted herself, and shared that gift with others. Like many transgender people, she was misgendered by media attempting to cover her untimely death.

Chyna Doll Dupree of New Orleans, Louisiana was 31 and was a well-known drag performer who toured in drag shows across the nation and was famous in the pageant and ball scene. She was described as "a really good person who everyone loved." 

Ciara McElveen of New Orleans, Louisiana was 21 and worked at the Tulane Drop-In Wellness Center doing outreach to people experiencing homelessness in her city. She was kind and compassionate.  

Alphonza Watson of Baltimore, Maryland, age 38, came out as trans in her teens. She was a very caring, passionate woman who was described as fun to be around. She was always talkative and playful. She was employed at an upscale retailer in Virginia, where she was one of the best salespeople.   

Chay Reed of Opa-locka, Florida was 28 and the life of the Homestead Job Corp Center where she was always dancing and making people smile. She was sweet, full of life, and hilarious, caring for her friends and community like a Mom.

Kenneth Bostick of New York City, 59,  lived at the Bowery Residents Committee shelter on West 25th Street in Chelsea. His peers described him as a shy and gentle presence who was kind to everyone, and never did wrong by anyone. He was also misgendered by the media.

Sherrel Faulkner of Charlotte, North Carolina, 46, was an “angel,” to family and friends.

Kenne McFadden of San Antonio, Texas, 26, was an out-going young woman who loved to sing and write poetry. She always kept her friends laughing and smiling. She had just begun living her truth. Media coverage misgendered and deadnamed her.

Josie Berrios of Ithaca, New York, 28, was a drag performer and member of the House of Merlot. She had the unique ability to take negativity and turn it into positive energy. Friends said she was so great to watch perform on stage.

Ava Le’Ray Berrin of Athens, Georgia was only 17 and was a young woman who loved to make people laugh and was “unapologetically real”. She wanted nothing more in life than to have fun and be herself. She was misgendered and deadnamed by the media.

Ebony Morgan of Lynchburg, Virginia, 28, was misgendered by the media and police. In her memory, the Lynchburg Diversity Center’s Transgender Alliance started a program offering scholarships to transgender community members wishing to update their identity documents.

Tee Tee Dangerfield of College Park, Georgia, 32, was deeply loved by her family. Her family remains outraged by her murder and continues to pursue justice. She was an all-around beautiful person who was an amazing soul.

Gwnyvere River Song of Waxahachie, Texas, 26,  was a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin in 2015 where they studied Radiation and Medical Physics. They identified as femmeandrogyne and were known by friends all over the country for their kindness, creativity and advocacy. Their smile could light up a room and they had a wicked sense of humor.

Kiwi Herring of St. Louis, Missouri, 30, was killed by police in response to a complaint filed by a neighbor who had been subjecting Kiwi to on-going harassment about her being transgender. Kiwi was a loving spouse and mother to three children.

Kashmire Redd of Gates, New York, 28, was very involved with the Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley. He loved and accepted others as he sought love and acceptance himself.

Derricka Banner of Charlotte, North Carolina, 26, called her godmother every morning  to say “I love you.” She was remembered as “always full of humor.” Derricka was misgendered and deadnamed by media.

Ally Steinfeld of Missouri was only 17 and had recently come out to her family as trans, and they were working to accept and love her for who she was. Her mother described her as “very loving, caring, would help anybody in need. Always smiled, tried to crack jokes to keep people happy.” She was misgendered and deadnamed by media and police.

Stephanie Montez of Corpus Christi, Texas, 47, of was one of the sweetest people her friends knew. She loved to dance. She had a great outlook on life and was supportive of her friends and community. She was active in the drag performance community. Stephanie was misgendered and deadnamed by media.

Candace Towns of Macon, Georgia, 30, was known to be a giving and kind person. She would do anything she could to help people in her life. She too was misgendered and deadnamed by media.

Jaylow McGlory of Alexandria, Louisiana, 29. Little is known about her life. May she rest in power.

Scout Schultz of Atlanta, Georgia, 21. They identified as nonbinary, intersex and bisexual. They were known in their community as a fierce advocate. Scout was killed by police in a display of excessive force. 

This list does not include the transgender people murdered this year who were not out, or those who even in death were misgendered, deadnamed and misidentified by law enforcement, media and their families.

We must mourn and make space to grieve each trans person lost to violence. We must also recognize and commit to lifting up the truth that transgender people are more than the violence done to us.

Transgender people are vibrant, complex, loving, caring, committed, passionate, driven people who daily have to resist individuals and institutions that seek to erase us from public life and who seek to cast us into the shadows.

We must continue to push ourselves, our communities, and organizations we work with to end racist and transphobic policies and behaviors. Failure to do so contributes to the normalization of violence against transgender women of color, an injustice we must never accept.

We must also continue to work to end the systemic discrimination that pushes transgender people into the shadows where they are placed at greater risk of violence, including, but not limited to the following:

·       We must work to end the school-to-prison pipeline that occurs due to harsh disciplinary policies, dress-code policies, and bullying that disproportionately affect transgender students.

·       We must work to advance and develop nondiscrimination employment protections.

·       We must work to advance and develop nondiscriminatory and affordable housing.  

·       We must work to ensure there is access to inclusive health care for transgender people.

·       We must work to develop affirming policies to safeguard incarcerated transgender people from violence in jails, prisons and detention centers.

·       We must work to prioritize challenging and ending white supremacy in LGBTQ advocacy.

·       We must work to unlearn, unpack and end toxic masculinity and its role in gender-based violence.

In the honor of those we've lost: Drawing from our living, fighting power, we must commit to do better.