Rev. Alex Patchin McNeill
Minister and civil rights movement pioneer, Rev. Howard Thurman once said, “The measure of a man’s estimate of your strength is the kind of weapons he feels he must use in order to hold you fast in a prescribed place.”
As a transgender man, I know all too well that the past few years and 2020 particularly, feel like every weapon in the arsenal has been lobbed at transgender people. As we honor the 21st Annual Transgender Day of Remembrance we reckon with the difficult truth that at least 350 transgender people have been killed in the past year, including the 38 mostly Black, Indigenous and POC transgender women who have been killed in the United States, this number does not include the disproportionate impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on marginalized communities whose bodies and lives are not well taken care of by our medical communities.
2020 also culminated a 4 year anti-transgender assault campaign waged by the OUTGOING Trump Administration, which has been dubbed the Discrimination Administration by the National Center for Transgender Equality. From day one in office, OUTGOING president Trump has used his arsenal of executive orders and legal actions against the transgender community: from reinstating a transgender military ban to removing protections for transgender students, arguing for a constitutional right TO discriminate against people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and strengthening the ability to discriminate in housing and health care.
It should not be surprising that the environment he has stoked has incited one of the worst years for violence against transgender lives on record in the US. If that weren’t enough, he and the Republican majority in the Senate just confirmed a Supreme Court justice whose personal views and legal approach has been hostile to LGBTQIA+ people, and has openly spoken against including transgender people under Title IX.
While come January 20th 2021 Trump may be out of office, his legacy of appointing a series of Supreme Court justices increasingly hostile to LGBTQIA+ rights will continue to wreak havoc on the rights and liberty of trans and queer folks.
AND YET. Here we are, gathered together as people of faith, for Transgender Day of Remembrance. We choose to remember and honor those whose lives were lost to state-sanctioned and interpersonal violence.
One of my Sheroes of Transgender activism, is Jennicet Gutierrez. Jennicet is a founding member of La Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, and much of her activist work supports trans women detained for their immigration status. In her organizing work she often wears a t-shirt that reads: Mi existir es resistir: My existence is resistance. Exactly. Her t-shirt has become a rallying cry within the transgender community. We gather today for Transgender Day of Remembrance to SAY THEIR NAMES, honor the existence of those who are no longer with us, AND by doing so resist the dehumanization and erasure threatened from our government and our world.
In seeking to understand the depth of the assaults against trans lives I return to the words of Rev. Howard Thurman: “The measure of a man’s estimate of your strength is the kind of weapons he feels he must use in order to hold you fast in a prescribed place.” If this is true, and I believe it is, the trans community is STRONG Y’ALL.
We owe SO MUCH of our progress for justice and equality across movements for Black Lives, Immigrant justice, and of course LGBTQIA+ rights and recognition to our courageous and visionary transgender sisters, brothers, and siblings who have led the way.
Despite the threats of government, of harm, of erasure, the transgender community has grown and continued to break barriers including in the halls of government.
2020 also set the record for trans and non-binary candidates winning legislative seats in BOTH red and blue states including the first ever out Trans SENATOR in US, Sarah McBride.
What I love about trans people is that we embody what it means to take a leap of faith towards liberation. To resist the false binary of fixed sex and gender and therefore to expose the fabricated and false binary divisions of race, sexuality, and even divinity.
As trans people, We gather up our Creator-given belovedness and wear it on our sleeve for all to catch hold of. Our existence is resistance and an invitation to liberation for us all. We come together to remember, to resist, and to hold fast to a vision of liberation no one take away. Amen.