Transgender Day of Remembrance 2018
Every year, we set aside the 20th of November to mourn our stolen transgender family members, lift each other up in solidarity, and attempt to force the world to see – if only for one day – how cruel and absurd it is to sit back and allow hateful cowards to murder with impunity.
From one November to the next, we attempt to compile the names that we must never forget. We attempt to spread their stories. We attempt to know them so we can carry their banner in their absence. Despite our best efforts, though, many organizations believe the extent of the violence to date is unknown.
Validating the victims
To truly wake the world up, the staggering number of victims must be compiled and named. It sounds analytical and impersonal, but the horror needs numbers; the numbers need names; the names need faces. These are real people who deserve to be acknowledged.
There’s one huge problem, though – every list has different numbers. Wikipedia’s 2018 List of Unlawfully Killed Transgender People lists only 37 murders in 2018. The Human Rights Campaign lists only 22 murders this year, down from 29 in 2017. Wikipedia’s list includes all countries, while HRC’s list only focuses on crimes in the United States. These numbers would be laughable if they weren’t so harmful.
The Trans Murder Monitoring (TMM) project, a sub-project of the Transrespect Versus Transphobia (TvT) project, lists 369 reported murders of trans and gender-diverse people across the world from October 1st, 2017 through September 30th, 2018. The organization openly admits that this number is only their best effort based on what reports can be found.
Lack of care and resources
We live in a world in which law enforcement, news media outlets, politicians, and even families misgender murder victims; it can be out of malice, shame, ignorance…but let’s be honest, the reasons don’t matter. It’s unforgivable to erase the identity of a victim who was murdered because of their identity. It’s nonsense. In these cases, the victim is almost never able to be recognized as a victim of a hate crime; they are robbed of their right to be posthumously lifted up and validated, and we are robbed of our right to mourn them.
We are all unique individuals with complex stories, so even when crimes are reported with the victim’s correct identity, the organizations tracking the growing number of victims don’t have the resources to investigate each individual case. This makes it hard to determine whether the murder was, in fact, related to the victim’s gender rather than drugs, crimes of passion, robberies gone wrong, etc. The official investigations often make the waters even murkier. Take, for example, the recent murder of Shantee Tucker.
Say her name: Shantee Tucker
When Shantee Tucker was shot eight times in the back by an unknown person in a black truck on September 5th, 2018, Homicide Capt. John Ryan sparked outrage throughout Philadelphia by stating, “She wasn’t targeted because of her gender affiliation or lifestyle.” The statement is especially upsetting in light of the fact that the police have never had any suspects or leads. Shantee’s unsolved case was highlighted in this year’s Philly Trans March, and activists point out that she is only one of five (reported) transgender women of color who have been murdered in Philadelphia since 2013. In addition to Shantee’s tragedy, the March addressed multiple issues, including the fact that the majority of gender-related murder victims are transgender women of color.
Mourning the lost; supporting the future
We live in a dichotomous time. Society finally has to face the idea of “transgender” as something that actually exists – or at least something they can’t ignore anymore; transgender celebrities are out and proud; children are starting to be allowed to take ownership of their own identities – 9-year-old Avery Jackson, a trans girl who has taken the world by storm and inspired the Transgender House in Topeka, Kansas, was featured on the cover of National Geographic.
On the other side of the coin, hard-won transgender rights were yanked away before many people even got to exercise them. In addition to those rights, activists and advocates openly worry about the revocation of marriage rights. Countless murders of trans individuals go unsolved and forgotten; countless trans youth and young adults succumb to suicide. It might feel like we have no control over our future.
What can we do?
We can stay loud, determined, and resolute. If we feel helpless and hopeless looking toward the future, we can choose to build each other up in the present. We can keep our hearts open to anyone who needs help – and we can show them where to get professional help if necessary through resources like the Transgender Law Center.
Maybe not all 369 murders were hate crimes. It doesn’t matter; in 365 days, the world lost 369 people who dared to live their authentic lives. They are our family, and we are diminished by their absence. We owe it to them, ourselves, and the future to give new life to their silenced voices.