Transgender Day of Remembrance
Today marks the annual observation of the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR). TDOR is observed annually on November 20 and was set aside to memorialize those killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. The event is held in November to honor Rita Hester, a trans woman of color whose murder on November 28th, 1998 kicked off the Remembering Our Dead web project and a San Francisco candlelight vigil in early 1999. Due to the interest in both the website and that original vigil, it was decided that an annual memorial to those killed due to anti-transgender violence or prejudice was necessary to help spread information about these deaths.
TDOR can be a complicated day for people in the trans community. On the one hand, it’s important to honor those lost to violence and to say the names of those killed. On the other, the brutality of their deaths can be triggering for many. More, for many in the trans community, TDOR can leave people feeling like they are seen more in their deaths than in the remarkable lives they lived, almost like focusing on Good Friday without the hope of Easter.
While the realities of violence and threats of violence against trans people are very real, particularly for trans women of color, any narrative that focuses solely on death threatens to erase the beauty and resilience that shines through when people live into who God has created them to be, especially in the midst of a world that continues to encourage them to be someone else.
One way to honor both the lives lost and the resilience and fierceness possessed by so many trans folks is to recognize the ways in which their lives are made more difficult by systemic evils of heteropatriarchy and white supremacy, and then working for a world where these evils no longer exist. TDOR invites us to look at our own complicity in these systems, to recognize that our unwillingness to speak and to act against such evils has a direct correlation to the continuation of death-dealing actions.
When we see transgender people through the complexity of the systems in which we navigate, we are also called to recognize and celebrate the resilience of those who refuse to be bound to projected norms of gender and sexuality, norms that are so deeply ingrained that they either remain invisible to us, or we simply ignore them. We’ve recently released an edited version of Part 1 of our Racial Justice Teach-In, and one of the things lifted up in the series is the ways in which the dominant narrative of a culture simplifies the stories we tell about our experience. This is why many same-gender couples are often asked by straight folks which one of them is the man or woman in a relationship, or why trans people are so often expected to dress or act in a way that strictly conforms to gender norms, or why white folks have a hard time really hearing People of Color talk about their experiences navigating through a world where whiteness is always centered. The process of seeing the ways in which heterosexism and white supremacy saturate our lives can be jarring and painful, sometimes even terrifying.
In Part 3 the series, lead trainer Jessica Vazquez Torres spoke to this process when she asked:
“Can we de-center the whiteness that has us enslaved long enough to imagine what it means to be free? And if we could figure out what it means to be free, the mechanics of de-centering whiteness: of the letting go of what imprisons us, actually isn’t terrorizing, but it is something that is about liberation and a decolonization of ourselves.”
Learning to see the things we’ve been taught not to see can be painful. Yet, it is the only way to our individual and collective freedom. We are honored and humbled to be in this work with you, and grateful for your continued commitment to co-creating a world where all of God’s children are loved, seen, and affirmed in the fullness of who God created them to be.Today we mark the painful reality of violence that has claimed too many trans lives and we commit to working for a world where no one is punished for living as who they are called to be. As a trans-led faith organization we are often called upon to help bring a new understanding of gender identity and they systems that restrict the living of our fullest selves. We believe that part of our calling is to push against restrictive binaries that would have us limit the nuance and beauty of all of our stories. We’ve created liturgy for a TDOR service in the Worship Resources section of our website that we hope lives into this calling.
We ask that you support this world-building work by making a donation to the work of More Light. Your gift means that we can bring one more workshop to a congregation who is ready to further their understanding and inclusion of transgender lives.