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Transgender Day of Remembrance.

November 20, 2012

Last weekend I visited some family with my cousin Jillian. She is a lesbian with some genderqueer tendencies (note: she is cisgendered – not trans* – and identifies as female). Over the weekend, my 5-year old cousin had trouble understanding that Jillian is a girl. Jillian has short hair! It was very confusing for him. But I sat him down and tried to teach him an important lesson: It doesn’t matter what you think Jillian “is.” It matters that you listen to what she says. My aunt pointed out that Jillian has earrings, and her tattoos are of hearts – classic signals that Jillian is, indeed, a girl. But I interrupted her. Wearing earrings doesn’t make her a girl, just like short hair doesn’t make her a boy. Jillian is a girl because she says she is. End of story.

Today is the Transgender Day of Remembrance. In the past 12 months, 265 trans people were murdered across the world. 265 too many. That’s a 20% increase from last year. Here is the growing list of names.

The way I see it, if I’m not learning about trans peoples’ experiences, If I’m not working hard to be a trans ally and listen to the voices of trans folks, I’m part of the problem. What can we do to make the world safer for trans folks? Jillian isn’t trans, and my 5-year old cousin didn’t have murderous intentions, but it was a chance to teach an important lesson. What else can I do? I could read up more about trans experiences and follow more trans blogs and twitter accounts. I could try harder to call out transmisogyny when I see it on TV. I could ask more people their pronouns when I’m not sure, to ensure that I don’t misgender them. And how about this: When I get called out for not trying hard enough, I can listen and adjust.

Monica Maldonato has a great piece up about her feelings on the TDOR:

 “Reflecting on those whose lives were senselessly lost at the intersections of violence and injustice is one of the most important and sobering works we can do as a community.

But it can’t be all we do. And until we rise to the occasion; until each of us rises to action; until we meet the very real challenge of creating a more equal community and society; until we do better, we’ll keep meeting here each year, reading this ever-growing list of names of those who lost their lives at these intersections of violence and injustice.” via

Meanwhile, my good friend recently told me that they’d like to start using gender neutral pronouns (“ze” and “hir” instead of “she/he” or “him/her”).  As an ally, and as a good friend, I’m excited to respect hir wishes. It’s literally the least I could do.

 

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