By Ali Mailen Perrotto, Contract Liaison at PCAR:
Each year on the 20th day of November, communities around the country honor the lives of loved ones, friends, and neighbors who died because of hate and bias against transgender people. It is a day to remember. It is a day to honor. It is a day to say, “Enough.”
Transgender Day of Remembrance started in Boston in 1999, one year after the tragic and violent murder of Rita Hester. The International Transgender Day of Remembrance keeps a list of the people killed due to anti-transgender hatred. “memorializing 2016” honors the lives and deaths of the 87 trans people murdered since the beginning of 2016 . I am a cisgender woman. I have the privilege of learning about this violence, instead of living with it. I want other cis- people to make this issue your issue.
That number is staggering. 87. 87. 87. How can we live in a time when 87 people are killed because of deep-seated hate and bias based on their gender? Anti-transgender bias in our time reminds me of the boiling frog anecdote. Of course, any decent human being can look at a list of people murdered viciously and violently and “tsk” about how terrible that is…”Who would do such a thing?” We are not only talking about hate motivated violence; we are talking about every form of hate and bias.
But just as a frog will boil to death if the water is slowly heated, so will we ignore just how terribly pervasive gender-based bias is until someone is dead. It is the little things that slowly heat the water. It is lies about the risk of sexual violence increasing when transgender students can use the bathroom that matches their gender. It is silence about discriminatory policing practices against trans people, especially trans women of color. It is discrimination and harassment in the workplace. It is the passing of policies that slowly erode the rights, privileges, and safety of transgender people. It is silence about the social disparities and rates of violence…simply assuming that the risk is the same for everyone. It’s not.
It is unacceptable that trans people in our communities face rates of sexual, verbal, and physical violence that are way higher than the national average. In study after study, in setting after setting, more than half of transgender study participants report experiencing sexual violence and attempting suicide.
Enough. Let today be the day that you say, “enough – I will not stand for this.” Know, deep down in your heart, that it does not have to be this way. Know that you can interrupt when someone makes any sort of gender stereotypical joke, or uses offensive terms, like "tranny". Know that providing supportive environments for trans youth makes a difference in their social and emotional well-being. Know that making it known to local legislators that anti-discrimination measures are more important now than ever will make a difference. Know that speaking up at the Thanksgiving table to provide insight about the grave disparities reverberates well beyond your dining room walls. Know that your silence is deafening. Know that you can make a difference.
Above all, know that people who live their lives as their authentic selves in the face of discrimination, hate, bias, and disparity, are brave. Trans people are strong. Trans people are valued. Trans people are loved. Trans people make our world a better place. We honor the lives lost, and we commit to doing everything in our power to make sure that this water stops boiling.