Since Chaz Bono's casting on Dancing With The Stars, GLAAD has been profiling prominent transgender advocates and members of the community on a weekly basis. Previously, we featured transgender advocates Laverne Cox and Chris Mosier. Laverne is an actress and was the first African American transgender woman to appear on an American reality television show when she was a finalist on VH1’s “I Want to Work for Diddy.” She also writes frequently for The Huffington Post. Chris is an accomplished triathlete and USA Triathlon certified coach committed to inclusivity for transgender and gender non-conforming people in sports. Below, Laverne and Chris share their respective thoughts and experiences around the Transgender Day of Remembrance.
In March of 2008, the day before my final interview for “I Want to Work for Diddy,” I was shopping in midtown Manhattan and passed a small group of black men. I heard one of them yell, “Batty Boy,” an anti-gay slur which is common place in some Caribbean cultures. Another yelled, “F**got!” Then one of them kicked me. I have grown accustomed to people saying things like that as I walk down the street. But this kind of verbal harassment turning physical has always been one of my greatest fears as a transgender person.
After retreating into a nearby store, I, of course, called the police. They told me someone kicking me is legally considered harassment. I filed a report, and the officer told me that I was lucky it wasn’t worse. Even though at the time I didn’t feel very lucky, I knew he was right. This 13th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, I can’t help but feel both saddened and angered that I am lucky enough to still be alive when so many of my transgender brothers and sisters are not. I have often asked myself why me and not them?
Maybe we trans people and our allies who are lucky enough to still be alive are here in part to remember that so many transgender and gender non-conforming people have died as a result of the transphobia, discrimination and violence we face. Maybe we are still here to find ways to dismantle the oppressive regimes and mindsets that seek to oppress and extinguish all those who dare step out of place when it comes to gender. Many have paid with their lives. Let’s not have their sacrifice be in vain.
Hearing stories of violence against transgender people can be overwhelming; Transgender Day of Remembrance reminds me to be strong and to move forward with a purpose. Stories and experiences from strong trans voices create opportunities for awareness, education, and understanding of the lives of transgender people. The visibility of the transgender community on this day is powerful; I try to carry this into the advocacy work I do as I try to change policies, raise awareness, and increase equality.
Transgender Day of Remembrance is a great way for allies to participate in an event that raises awareness and gives visibility to the violence that transgender and gender-nonconforming communities endure. A growing list of allies is our greatest hope in combating transphobia and shortening the list of names to be read next year.