by Blaise Lotier

International Transgender Awareness Week, which includes Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR), was founded to raise visibility of transgender and gender expansive people, address issues this community faces, and memorialize those who died due to transphobia and violence over the last year. In Our Own Voices – a local Albany, New York, community-based proponent of equal opportunities for sexual and gender minorities of color – organized the 2018 Transgender Day of Remembrance vigil and community gathering. This was a poignant commitment, as a disproportionate number of those lost to violence are transgender and gender expansive people of color.

I hope posterity one day recognizes Transgender Day of Remembrance less and less as a day of mourning, but instead, as a day to solely celebrate the resiliency and accomplishments of the transgender and gender expansive community, despite ongoing adversity, hostility, and derision. I celebrate my community, and those who came before me – Trans brothers who smuggled hormones from Mexico to the United States because they knew their bodies and standard of care better than most physicians at the time; my Trans sisters who faced, and still face, extensive harassment by employers, teachers, and those sworn to protect, all for simple equality and Civil Rights; my gender expansive siblings whose indigenous cultures or very vitality always recognized them, before the shadow of an occupier arrived who did not.

My personal journey transcends my family, who always knew I was different, but was not prepared to deal with what those differences meant for me, for them, for their expectations, nor those of society. I would not be here today without my Trans community – those who came before and those who will come after. The fortitude of my community, and community centers in Albany, NY like In Our Own Voices, gave me the strength to save myself. A multi-pronged approach of information, understanding, community, and advocacy are all needed to ensure the rights of transgender people are not only protected, but celebrated. Yet, this requires all of us – the queer community, allies, educators, medical providers, and community organizers.

Urgent next steps in which community members and advocate can get involved are both expansive and inclusive. Firstly, educate yourself and others on inclusive terminologies in order to relieve some of the burden of education compelled onto the transgender community. Secondly, call to attention both local and national policies or incidents of discrimination and dehumanization, such as in schools, hospitals, or the absence of all-gender public restrooms in public buildings. Third, pay invited community survivors of violence to share their stories and ideas for community organizing and direct action. Fourth, fight for the necessary attention and resources to be focused on unsolved murder cases involving these community members, as the murder of our trans and gender expansive community members are often intensely personal, vicious, and disregarded by the mainstream media. Fifth, organize both passive and active self-defense courses and first-aid trainings aimed to serve the transgender community. Lastly, coordinate an anti-bullying campaign inclusive of legal aid and counsel, for concise definitions of harassment, as well as legal recourse for such alienation of human rights due to gender identity and expression. As we fight for the safety and lives of our Trans brothers and sisters, we cannot forget the next generation of Trans and gender expansive youth that look to us for protection.

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