Kylar Broadus is an African-American transgender advocate, lawyer, and board member for the National Black Justice Coalition, a national black LGBT civil rights organization based in Washington, D.C. He is also the founder of the Trans People of Color Coalition, the only national social justice organization promoting the interests of transgender people of color. Below, Kylar shares his thoughts on the Transgender Day of Remembrance and the importance of honoring those lost to transphobia and violence.
I attended the honoring of Ugandan LGBT advocate Frank Mugisha by the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights on November 10 at the Kennedy Caucus Room in the Russell Senate Office Building. Mr. Mugisha deserves this incredible recognition. It is good to realize that we as a human race are in this together. Nevertheless, it struck me during the presentation how out of touch people are with what is happening at home in our very own backyard in the United States.
It was noted that Mr. Mugisha has fought for the equality of LGBT people even with the threats of death and exile in this country. These things rang a bell with me as far as what transgender advocates go through in this country. The threat of death is imminent on a daily basis from family, employers, coworkers, friends and strangers on the street. The latest victim is Shelley Hilliard in Detroit, Michigan. Ms. Hilliard, only 19 years of age, was brutally murdered. It seems that at least one of us is murdered on a daily basis, and these are only the reported murders. It seems transgender people, particularly transgender women and people of color, are thought of as expendable.
This doesn’t speak to the hate that people experience at work and home. These attitudes, as we’ve learned in other movements, lead to the feeling that individuals are not human and not worthy of being respected or even living. The bottom line is that we are all human beings regardless of our beliefs or the lot that we’re dealt in life. Every human being is worthy of being treated with respect and dignity. We are all trying to make the best of our experience and our life.
I think that the Transgender Day of Remembrance is much needed to draw attention to this epidemic and to educate people of the daily struggles of being transgender in America. Until we realize the atrocities that occur in our own country, we cannot address them. There are few employment protections and little protection from the violence and discrimination that occurs against transgender people. This of course impacts people of color communities more than other communities. We must continue to advocate for legal protections from the employment discrimination and violence. The only way to effect change is to honor and hear the stories of those who have been lost due to such transphobia and violence.