What Does Transgender Day of Remembrance Mean to You? – Monica Roberts

November 18, 2009

Monica Roberts

The Transgender Day of Remembrance exists so that we don’t get so consumed living our own lives, dealing with our own drama and fighting our own battles to live our lives that our fallen brothers and sisters fade from our consciousness.   It’s a vehicle to help us remind the world that the people we mourn on this day were somebody’s son, daughter, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, cousin, or friend. But what does the Transgender Day of Remembrance mean to me personally? A Transgender Day of Remembrance is the time that this proud, African descended transwoman pauses from dealing with the hustle, bustle and drama of living my life to do as Dr. King so eloquently put it, some ‘hard, solid thinking’ about the transpeople whose lives were cut short due to anti-transgender violence. I ponder the painful reality that a large segment of the people memorialized on the list are trans people of color.  I lament the loss of the potential positive contributions to our societies these fallen transpeople have, would, could and should have been able to make to our various communities. I remind myself as we add new names to this tragically expanding list to not forget Stephanie Thomas, Ukea Davis, Chanelle Pickett, Ebony Whitaker, Nakhia Williams and Kellie Telesford and scores of others. I keep in mind as I silently pray for them that the people who brutally murdered them either still haven’t been brought to justice or received the equivalent of a legal slap on the wrist for doing so. It’s also the time I remind myself, there but for the grace of God go I. The Transgender Day of Remembrance is a time I get to engage in coalition building activities and education efforts with our allies organized around this event.   It’s when I get to see the trans people in my local community I may not interface with on a regular basis, but who will show up for a TDOR before going back to living their lives in the shadows. It’s the time I refocus my energy to the task of continuing to remind people that trans people are part of the diverse mosaic of human life, and pray that the day soon arrives in which a trans person’s life matters as much as a cisgender* person’s life does. *In her book, Transgender History, Susan Stryker defines cisgender as preferred over nontransgender. The prefix cis means “on the same side as” (that is, the opposite of trans). The idea behind the terms is to resist the way that  “woman” or “man” can mean “nontransgender woman” or  “nontransgender man” by default.  “Cisgender” names the usually unstated assumption of nontransgender status contained in the words “man” and woman.” Trinity-Award-winning activist Monica Roberts, aka the TransGriot, is a writer, blogger, and lecturer on transgender issues. A passionate advocate for transgender civil rights who has lobbied at the federal, state and local levels,  she is a founding member of the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition (NTAC). She also co-hosted a GLBT themed radio show in her hometown from 1999-2001, founded the Transsistahs-Transbrothas Internet discussion list for African-American transgender people in 2004, and helped organize the 2005 and 2006 Transsistahs-Transbrothas Conferences that took place in Louisville.