Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Transgender Day of Remembrance 2012 in Riverside

Here in Riverside our TDoR event came off without a hitch. Transgender Veterans and appropriate healthcare was the topic of our speakers from The VA Loma Linda Healthcare System, though I don't have the text of their words to post here, at least not yet.

Then we held the Candlelight Memorial where many names were remembered out loud. I spoke these words:

"“It is estimated that one trans person per month on average is killed in a hate crime in the United States. In the last year, an estimated 250 gender variant/trans people were reported murdered worldwide. The term transgender refers to people whose gender identity, expression, or behavior is different from those typically associated with their assigned sex at birth” – this from Nancy Cook of KTAL News, Shreveport, Louisiana.

That is higher than statistics I have seen prior to 2010 and the trend still seems to be rising now that LGBT issues are often in the news. Many are pushing back against us so we must be careful these days out walking and going about our business – when possible go with a friend. Be aware of your surroundings – don’t look fearful but look around often and look people in the face as you pass – act like you belong there. Don’t have your music up so loud that you would not hear someone approaching from behind or just leave your tunes at home. If you don’t feel safe in a place you enter leave immediately and try to stay around well lit, populated places when you can. Avoid alleys or poorly lit short-cuts. Any self-defense coach will give you much the same advice; avoiding danger is your first line of self-defense.

Transgender Day of Remembrance in its original form recognizes those who have been murdered simply for being themselves. The people we name out loud shortly speak clearly. However I believe that this remembrance should not only be about those murdered but it should necessarily include the many who are bullied to death as well – the murderer may be long gone when an actual death happens, but though it be ruled technically a suicide I strongly believe that there is a culprit or culprits to blame. Many of these deaths never get reported and their names never again spoken aloud and that breaks my heart!

Our society is so good at bullying, and at excusing it. We see it on TV in sitcoms, in commercials, on the exploitative talk shows all the time and we often think it’s funny so most people don't even understand that when they tease others they might be hurting someone or pushing one over the edge.

I can’t even begin to speak of the harm done by families, social organizations and Churches that bully and reject their own, and I can’t talk about it without getting worked up. And then there are those who aren't doing it with intent but simply think their teasing is all in fun, not thinking what others might feel or about the consequences their words or actions towards others may harbor. Not thinking it might not be funny at all, but tragic.

There are always consequences for even the smallest of actions. You may not ever see them but they are there. You may not get a reaction on the spot, but there always is one––alone, in the dark, the tears, the rage, the hopelessness, the drugs, the bleeding, the dying––yes, there always is one.

We on the receiving end learn to take it with a straight face but we hold this stuff in and for some it builds up to the point of ruined self-esteem or worse; chronic depression or other mental disorders, cutting or other self-abuse, drug abuse, and suicide if the drugs can't numb the pain or provide enough of an escape. The statistics about bullying gathered in recent months bear this out clearly enough too.

So we start here once again to remember, to understand, to feel and share the pain, learning to love and accept others and help them heal even if we can’t quite fathom the driving force in their life. By remembering these who have been murdered and bullied to death, by pondering who and what they might have become, maybe, just maybe we can make life better for others today who are heading into such a crisis. Maybe one of you will save the life of someone you encounter simply by replacing a frown with a kind word or a smile or perhaps by standing up to a bully picking on someone else within your hearing – just a word or two is all it takes.

What any one of us can do is an individual, on-the-spot decision, but let us start here today in these moments by remembering these passed souls as if they were a loved one, a dear friend, a brother or sister, or someone that we could respect and revere or simply have a chat with. And yes, let us feel our loss. Most importantly we must let this loss change us, sensitize us and embolden us to embrace others who are different, remembering that they need our love and our care too. We are our brother’s and sister’s keepers and we must resolve it in our own hearts here and now to keep all of them with loving kindness.

Thank you all for participating."

Our event was written up in the local paper, The Press Enterprise by David Olson:

Hugs and Blessings,