In honor of the Transgender Day of Remembrance this Sunday, November 20, editor and trans advocate Janet Mock wrote a piece on her blog, Fish Food for Thought, about her first date as a 16-year-old beginning her transition. Earlier this year, Janet came out publicly in an article for Marie Claire magazine as a sign of solidarity with LGBT youth. In the following blog excerpt, Janet describes her experience of coming out to her date as a trans teenager and remembers the lives of those transgender women who were victims of violence.
“I can’t believe this,” I remember him saying, not so much to me, but to himself. “Why didn’t you tell me earlier?”
Because you’d look at me how you’re looking at me now. Like some creature from a faraway land with different values and dreams and feelings, I wanted to say. Instead, I said, “Sorry,” seemingly apologizing for who I was, ashamed of who I was, too young to own up to my struggles and fears and hopes and dreams.
Heartbroken, I opened the door to his car. I felt rejected and went to my room, crying over how unlucky I was, how no one would ever love me because I was different. Why did I have to be this way? I plead to everyone and no one.
Now, more than a decade later, I look at how lucky I was to get to walk out of that car. I now know the world can sadly be a cruel place. I could have been hit or beat or killed. A victim of a hate crime, one that could have been deemed a mistrial due to the trans panic defense, one where my family would have no closure, one where I’d be buried as a boy because no one but my friends knew my dreams of womanhood.
This is the story of hundreds of young girls, many who are not here with us, and many who, on Transgender Day of Remembrance, we’re remembering their hopes and dreams, celebrating their lives cut short, and mourning their tragic murders all because who they were frightened the people around them.
So is the heartbreaking stories of Stephanie Thomas, 19, and Ukea Davis, 18, two best friends who met as teenagers, transitioned together (just like my best friend Wendi and I) and tragically died together in Washington, D.C. in 2002. Sitting in Stephanie’s car late at night, the two girlfriends were gunned down with a semiautomatic weapon from a passing car; their bodies found with “at least 10 bullet wounds each.”
And Shelley Hilliard was reported missing by her mother Lyniece Nelson in Detroit in October. Weeks later, a charred torso was found near a highway in Detroit’s east side. The corpse was later identified as Shelley’s, emblazoned with her cherry tattoo. Shelley was only 19. “She was loved by a lot of people, a lot of friends a lot of family,” her mother told the Detroit News. “She just brought joy to everyone that she came in contact with. She was always there for her family.”
The names continue to scroll in my heart and the hearts of other trans people, their loved ones and allies. I can’t forget their faces. They remind me in an instant how lucky I was to get out of that car (and many others to come) as I navigated my journey to womanhood, as I became the person I am now counting my blessings that I never came face to face with this type of wretched, deathly hate and ignorance and intolerance. And it also makes me mourn, mourn the fact that I have to say that I was lucky to have survived that date, to acknowledge that we live in a world where a 16-year-old girl would have to fear being beat for being exactly who she is.
I’ve come out – after years of people telling me to stay stealth, to live in anonymity, to safely hide where I’ve been – because we are not shadows, we are not bodies, we are people. These young girls were people’s daughters, young people who were loved. And in an instant, a lethal mix of transphobia, misogyny and our society’s disposable culture took them away from people who loved them.
Transgender Day of Remembrance is about never forgetting, never forgetting that Gwen, Stephanie, Ukea, Shelley and hundreds of others are you. You can’t really know where you are going until you know where you’ve been.
You can read the rest of Janet's blog post here.