The transgender community is having a moment this year, for reasons good and bad. On the one hand you have the high profile coming-out of Caitlyn Jenner this past July, which shined a spotlight on and sparked a dialogue about transgender issues across the country.
On the other hand, far away from the Malibu mansion, the fashion spreads and the reality TV cameras, you have this: 22. That’s the number of transgender or gender nonconforming homicide victims so far this year in the U.S., 19 of whom were transgender women of color, according to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs. Nearly half of the murders took place in the South.
That’s why this year’s Transgender Day of Remembrance, taking place across the world on November 20, will be even more somber than usual. The event will be recognized locally with a vigil at Saint Mark’s United Methodist Church, featuring a keynote speech from state Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta).
Georgia one of five states without hate crime law
Tracee McDaniel shudders every time she sees another headline about a transgender murder victim.
“I’m angry, I’m outraged about it. And I’m numb,” says the founder and CEO of the Juxtaposed Center for Transformation. “So I just choose not to write or respond to those because it just takes a lot out of me to do that because I’m so tired of the everyday situation.”
As to what needs to be done to help solve the problem, McDaniel, the organizer behind Atlanta’s Transgender Day of Remembrance vigil, says, “There needs to be a change to what is described as a hate crime. It’s obvious that trans people are being targeted and being murdered. I don’t understand why we don’t have hate crime protections here locally.”
No surprise, then, that the keynote speaker for the vigil will be Sen. Fort, who has tried and failed to pass a hate crime law here in Georgia, one of only five states without such a law on the books. The Anti-Defamation League recently announced its 50 States Against Hate campaign to remedy that, and Fort tells Georgia Voice he plans to be part of that effort locally.
“The approach to hate crimes legislation is in process now,” Fort said. “I know the Anti-Defamation League has a campaign that they are looking at. I have talked to them a little bit about it. I’m reaching out to them and want to meet with them. I want to be involved and help where I can with that.”
And while Fort says he’s looking forward to speaking, the magnitude of the event weighs on him.
“It is one of the most painful, difficult events that I participate in,” he says. “I’m not a robot, you know? This is real stuff.”
But he agrees it is very necessary, this year more than ever.
“We’re not looking forward to adding the names to the list but we want to make sure that we memorialize trans people because they’re not being memorialized by their families in most cases,” McDaniel says. “They’re dying and just being discarded, so we want to say their names and we want to put their energy into the universe because we do care about them.”
A look forward with Transgender Day of Resilience
While Transgender Day of Remembrance will be a day to mourn and reflect, there is another local event taking place that will focus on looking forward and celebrating the transgender community. The Transgender Day of Resilience will take place Sunday, Nov. 22 at the Phillip Rush Center and include food, films, performances and conversations.
It’s the second annual event, organized by transgender activist and Lambda Legal director of community education and advocacy Holiday Simmons. So far the evening’s lineup includes a screening of the first episode of “Eden’s Garden,” the first trans-men-loving-trans-men web series, followed by a Q&A with the show’s director, Seven King. There will also be performances by Houston spoken word and performance artist Dee Dee Waters and genderqueer cellist Monica McIntyre, who hails from New Orleans. Local performers and more entertainment are to be announced.
“I think it’s important for communities, as we’re struggling and fighting for various rights and a place at the table, to reflect and see where we’ve come and also to take a moment and celebrate who we are, celebrate our creativity outside of our struggles and our fight for justice,” Simmons explains. “I think that’s important for all communities, but especially for trans communities. We’re just so oversaturated with the violence that is inflicted upon us, so it’s especially important for trans communities to remember that we’re resilient, that we’ve come a long way even if we have a long way to go, and that outside of all that, we’re brilliant, creative creatures that are artists, that are storytellers, that are musicians and to show the world that we’re more than statistics and we’re more than survivors or victims.”
Transgender Day of Remembrance “We Will Not Be Denied” Vigil Friday, Nov. 20, 2015 Reception: 6 p.m., Vigil: 7 p.m. Saint Mark United Methodist Church www.stmarkumc.us