Act Up, Fight Back Against Anti-Trans Violence

By Laura Kacere

265 trans people have been killed in the last 12 months.* 

Hundreds more have been assaulted, harassed, and incarcerated because of their gender identity. And hundreds more trans people live in poverty, experiencing very high unemployment rates due to widespread discrimination in jobs, as well as in housing and health care. The vast majority of the victims of trans violence/harassment/discrimination are trans women of color.

Transgender Day of Remembrance was started in 1999 by trans rights activists in response to the widespread violence against trans people they were seeing in their communities. Every year on November 20th, cities and towns around the world hold candlelight vigils to remember the victims of anti-trans violence and to keep their legacy and their memories alive.

Transgender Day of Remembrance is so important, especially for the victims and their loved ones. It is an opportunity to draw attention to this violence and mobilize people to fight against transphobia and anti-trans violence.  And this kind of attention is much-needed, as the discrimination and violence against trans people in our country is far too often ignored, even by the women’s and gay rights movements.

In the past year, we have seen some cases, like that of Cece McDonald, gain national attention thanks to the hard work of trans activists. Protests sparked by violence against the trans community have taken place across the country, in Chicago, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and more.  Unfortunately, coverage of instances of anti-trans violence are too few and far between, and are being extremely underreported by the media. Even when the media do cover these stories, they are often condescending, blame the victim, and/or are written offensively or ignorantly about the victims’ gender identity.

Our movement is not getting angry enough. Silence becomes complicit in the hatred.

While a yearly Transgender Day of Remembrance is clearly necessary, many trans and queer activists have stepped up to question the nature of the event and call attention to its limitations. Vigils are good for recognizing those who have suffered; they are peaceful and tragic reminders of our hateful culture.  But where do we go from there? If we are to put an end to this horrible violence, we need a movement. We need anger, mobilizing, and action.  We must learn from those who have died in the name of hate, but we must also take up their cause as our own and take to the streets in anger, making it clear that we will not stand for any more of these crimes.

Because it is becoming ever more clear that trans violence is not just a matter of individual intolerance.  It is a much stronger force entrenched in our culture and legal system that will require a mass movement – one that says we will not stand for a system that allows police officers to harass trans women on the street because they are perceived to be sex workers, or a system in which a trans woman can be placed in a men’s prison and be held in solitary confinement because they do not fit, a system under which 60% of all black trans people experience police harassment and/or assault, in which 1 in 5 trans people are refused medical care because they are transgender, in which 1 in 5 have been refused a home and 1 in 10 have been evicted from their homes because they are transgender, where trans people experience twice the rate of unemployment rate of the total population, where 1 in 4 have been fired from a job because they are transgender and 97% experience harassment/abuse at work.

We will not stand for a system in which 1 in 12 trans people are murdered for being transgender.

The violence is going on all around us, and the justified anger in our communities is boiling.

This Tuesday is Transgender Day of Remembrance – let’s continue to hold vigils to celebrate and remember victims of anti-trans violence. But don’t stop there. Organize a rally or speak-out on your campus. Lead an education campaign on issues trans people in our country face. Fight for anti-discrimination legislation so that trans people will have equal access to jobs, healthcare, and housing.

Let’s mobilize and organize ourselves and fellow activists, lets work to draw national attention to this insidious violence against our trans brothers and sisters, and let’s act up/fight back!

*The statistics of violence against trans people are based only on what is reported. The real numbers are much higher, since many murders, assaults, and harassment of trans people go unreported due to a perceived or very real unwillingness of police to respond, or to police being directly implicated in the crime.

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