On this day of remembrance, I think of the 23 members of the transgender community murdered in the United States this year, and the devastation inflicted upon them, their loved ones, and the transgender community, as well as the tremendous shame brought upon our country for each brutal murder motivated by darkness, hatred and fear.
I reflect on my journey to this point in life as a transgender woman, and how my experience is just one patch in the quilt of American history. Our founders opposed repression, and through the decades our woven blend of diversity and innovation has strengthened America and her people. However, history has shown that people of all colors, religions, and beliefs have faced discrimination, and have had to fight for fair and equal rights.
In a population of over three hundred million people, I am one of the 1.4 million members of the transgender community. We are parents, siblings, and children; we are coworkers, neighbors and public servants, but sadly we are also misunderstood, and people often fear the unknown.
The killings of transgender individuals were committed by partners, family members, acquaintances, neighbors, and strangers. Hundreds are killed worldwide each year. Tragically, the common thread is fear of the unknown, and the intolerance, discrimination, and hate that is bred by fear. Martin Luther King said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Although the circumstances of these senseless and tragic killings vary, officials report that deadly violence disproportionately affects transgender women of color. Racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia combine to deprive them of employment, housing, healthcare and other necessities, making them the most vulnerable in our community.
On this day I honor those who walked before me with pride, and whose contributions must never be forgotten. Let’s continue to shine the light on darkness to eliminate fear, discrimination, and violence against transgender individuals in America and around the globe. Harvey Milk encouraged his friends by saying, “I know that you cannot live on hope alone, but without it, life is not worth living. And you… And you… And you… Gotta give ‘em hope.”
Let’s continue to walk forward together with pride, shining our light on darkness, and always remember, do not be afraid.