Ja'briel Walthour is a transgender advocate and author. She has participated in GLAAD's National People of Color Media Institute and has written for The Huffington Post. Below, you can read her thoughts on the Transgender Day of Remembrance.
Gazing upon the vibrant colors of our rainbow, I ponder the significance of this symbol which represents the myriad of diversity within the LGBT community. The arch of the beautiful spectrum reminds me of the continuum of peace and solidarity which we strive to obtain in our struggle for justice and equality. For those of us who are the fabric of this rainbow, courage and tenacity is woven into our souls. Taking a stand for our beliefs and collective truth has become more than a way of life, but a rite of passage in the journey of change for mankind. As we honor those who have championed gender non-conformity, and those who paid the ultimate price for our struggle, let us appreciate the bravery and fortitude which defined their lives.
In my view, Transgender Day of Remembrance signifies a sense of respect and appreciation for many unsung heroes lost in the struggle for tolerance and acceptance. This somber celebration adds a name and a face to those whose voices were silenced far too soon! Indeed, it has been paramount to the movement of equality from the first candle-light vigil held for the murder of Rita Hester in 1998, to the outpouring of love and support shown for the more recent and tragic deaths of Camila Guzman and Lashai McLean. All of these individuals have served both as inspirations and chilling reminders of the inherent risks and dangers associated with living out loud, and not apologizing for it. Their courage, along with our allies and supporters, has given me a voice to challenge the status quo and join the ranks of those who would proclaim, “enough is enough!”
As an advocate for gender expression, I am strengthened in my resolve to educate, inspire, and recruit those who are unafraid to stand up for the truth. While I am deeply saddened by the senseless acts of violence which resulted in what became our Transgender Day of Remembrance, I am yet optimistic that peace and understanding will arise from the death of these individuals. The recognition and observance of this day reminds us all that these victims were not mere statistics but rather “real people, with real lives,” whose footprints will forever remain in the hearts and lives of many.
In honor of those lost in our struggle for gender identity expression without fear of discrimination or harassment, today I add a new color of “hope” to the spectrum of our beloved rainbow. This image is far more real and tangible, and certainly within our reach. Furthermore, I promise to remain vigilant and resilient in our struggle for survival as I implore you to do the same.