Transgender Day of Remembrance is a day where I can reflect on all the trans folks that have had to endure the hardships for expressing themselves.
To me it always feels like it’s Transgender Day of Remembrance as I am always remembering those who were so close and dear to me who were taken away from us so abruptly through prejudice and violence.
I moved to New York from Los Angeles over ten years ago because of the struggles I was facing during that period in my life.
Homelessness, among other things, was something that a lot of foster children were facing, foster children who were considered damaged goods and not worthy of a warm home and a loving family.
God forbid you were one of the ones who aged out of the system and you happened to be trans.
I always felt like no one understood me and when I ran away to Hollywood I found other [trans] kids who were like me and faced many of the issues and hardships that I was dealing with, A lot of us had to do sex work to put a roof over our heads and food in or bellies. In this cycle, I met a few people who later became good friends of mine.
So imagine how traumatic it was for me to hear one of my friends screaming for help as someone chased her down and brutally slashed her throat and killed her. Imagine how saddened I was to hear years later that another one of my girlfriends who was so kind and childlike was shot in the head and dumped on the side of the road like garbage.
I myself have wondered what has kept me on this earth longer than them. I surely thought I wouldn’t have made it past my 18th birthday, whether someone would take me out or whether I just simply would have given up - but here I am reminiscing on not just the depressing memories but on all the good qualities of those who were taken away by violence. Those were my friends.
I remember how we all looked out for one another and formed our own close-knit family; we'd all chip in for a dilapidated motel room to have a place to sleep, little things like that...we'd go to the movies or simply hangout on good old Santa Monica Blvd and wait for a date or for a cop to come and harass us.
These aren’t glamorous memories, but what I remember is we all had each other’s backs - it was us against the world and we were simply trying to survive. Some of us made it, some of us didn't, but I'm not bitter and jaded I know that's just the way life goes.
I remember my friends each and every day and will always remember them. They were taken away from us way too soon and I'm willing to bet if they were still alive you'd want them as a friend too.
Stefanie Gisselle Rivera currently works as an Interpreter for Sylvia Rivera Law Project and the Prisoners Rights Project. She and her older sister, Elizabeth Marie Rivera-Valentine, also a transwoman were featured on PBS In the Life: Beauty On the Black Market discussing the dangers of silicone pumping. Rivera has also appeared in the media and in ad campaigns advocating for the rights of the transgender community.