TDoR 20 November 2015, CCCU, U.K.
Closing address by Bee Scherer
Today is the 17th International Transgender Day of Remembrance.
As“Transrespect versus Transphobia Worldwide” (TvT), a research project of Transgender Europe, reminds us
Since 1999 this is a day to remember those trans people who have been victims of homicide. The TDOR raises public awareness of hate crimes against trans people, provides a space for public mourning and honours the lives of those trans people who might otherwise be forgotten.
TDoR started as a memorial to Rita Hester who was stabbed to death in her own apartment in San Francisco in 1998 within weeks from the notorious Matthew Shephard murder. TvT shares this depressing statistic:
These 271 human beings are only the tip of the iceberg, they contain only those whose murder has been reliably reported during the last year. They bring the total of reported trans murders to almost 2000 since 2008; and let us remind ourselves that 80% of those are trans women of colour.
Today we mourn them all. We mourn them together with the many more trans persons we have lost to self-harm and suicide. Their deaths are also murders and we all share in the responsibility. The unprecedented high amount of suicidality among trans persons correlates to the lived trans experience of often daily bullying, frequent threats and physical violence as well the constant systemic silencing and erasure of trans and gender-non binary voices.
Transphobia as I have argued in recent papers is heteropatriarchy’s and heterosexism’s strongest manifestation. We share in oppressive heteropatriarchy’s triumph of sexism, homo- and bi-phobia and transphobia because we do not speak up enough, do not reach out enough, fight enough, care enough. Sadly, some LGBs and some self-avowed feminists even actively contribute to the trans* marginalisation and hate speech. Make no mistake: hate speech kills just as much as hate acts. Through hate speech actions are encouraged and justified. Again in the last year transphobia has been given the odour of respectability by both religious leaders and secular thinkers. Remembering all those lost due to privileged bigotry, religious hate speech and the self-righteous violence our societies exerts and empowers we all share the burden of responsibility for the deaths of those we are mourning today.
In the face of our own small-mindedness and cowardice let us vow to celebrate human life in its messiness, its blurred categories and its unexpected, wonderful richness and complexity. Let us celebrate the memory of those lost: We are part of the net of their lives and deaths. Our names are called as both the victims and the perpetrators. As the Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh says in one of his most famous and powerful poems:
Please call me by my true names
So I can wake up
And so the door of my heart can be left open
The door of compassion.