Transgender Day of Remembrance

from Trans Youth Education and Support of Colorado (TYES)

November 20th is the Transgender Day of Remembrance, a solemn day where we stop and remember the special lives of transgender people who have fallen victim to the hatred and violence of a world that does not yet understand the beautiful gift transgender and gender nonconforming people bring to all of us. Once again this year, we see that racial and economic inequalities dramatically increase the risk of brutality. The great majority of victims have been trans women of color. On this day, and every day, our TYES families stand in solidarity with the entire community in demanding the right of every child, teen and adult to live authentically, to be free to express the identity that is within them.

My own darling daughter transitioned from the gender she was assigned at birth to her authentic self at only 7 years old. Today she is a beautiful, talented and delightful 12 year old, who lights up the world with her smile and charisma. She sings like an angel, does backflips across the room with ease, and is always the first to notice when someone else is in need of a hug or to see those who seem invisible to others. When I first learned that she was transgender, I was terrified of what the world would do to her, how my friends would react, and how my world would be changed forever. Years later, I can say that she has a bright and happy future with many friends who dearly love her. Learning to navigate the LGBT world that supports her has brought me into contact with the most interesting, delightful people I have ever met. I not only love my transgender daughter, I am deeply grateful for the gifts she has given me and the beautiful way my life has changed because of her.

At this time of year many of our TYES parents are asked to attend or speak at services for the Transgender Day of Remembrance. I went one year, and heard of a beautiful 16 month old child who had been beaten to death because he showed feminine behaviors. Torrents of tears poured down my face as I thought of my beautiful baby (who we thought was a boy) dancing in “his” sister’s tutu in front of the TV. It was Christmas Eve and we were watching the Nutcracker. The pain of hearing that someone could believe that my baby should die for such an innocent act of expression has haunted me ever since. I hope the families and loved ones of all the victims will understand, but I can not attend another service yet. I have grieved that baby boy as if he were my own for two years now.

I write this as a plea to the friends, families, allies, and well-meaning people who ask us, as parents of transgender children, to stop and think before assuming that we will want to attend a service or speak at one. Raising a transgender or gender nonconforming child today involves many risks, great visibility, and challenges that may be unknown to parents of LGB children. Many of us have very young, vulnerable children whose lives are just beginning. Some of our children are living in stealth, where friends and classmates only know them as their affirmed gender. Some of us can be visible in the world and stand for justice, but many of us can’t. With all our hearts, we know that it is the amazing community of transgender adults who have had the courage to transition and faced horrific discrimination, who have created a world where our children can now transition before puberty, and live authentic lives from a very young age. However, we are still raising these beautiful children. Our lives are filled with vigilance, and driven by a need to protect them. To attend a service is more than many of us can bear. Here’s what some of our TYES families had to say during a recent discussion of this issue:

……….. “As terrifying as it is for us parents, I believe that our children and families will open minds and hearts and I hope that one future November day we will be celebrating a year with no deaths. ”

……….”Just thinking of the day overwhelms me with emotion. I have come to love so many trans people and I worry not only for [child’s name], but for all of them.”

……….”I try to stay positive when I think of [child’s name]’s future, but I know the risks and challenges she faces. This day just brings that too close to home. ”

……….”I attended one last year and I cried through the whole thing, but I am glad I went”

………”These remembrance events tend to talk about really tragic stories..They are tragic..and very real for the people who experienced them…and it is important to be aware of societal issues, risks, etc…but at the same time, my mind just can’t go there right now. I can’t deal with grief for others when I have to put a lot of energy into crafting a supportive environment for my daughter. I have so much hope for my child’s future..and that things are changing and continue to evolve.”

……….”I feel a sense of dread when talking about the Day of Remembrance. I believe it’s super important to continually bring awareness to the issues trans people face…but at the same time, no parent wants to think that violence could happen to their child..As my child is so young and we have so much to deal with already…things that are very real and in the present moment for us, I feel like I don’t have any energy left for thinking about these scenarios and what others have gone through. Plus it’s darn right scary..our whole future is ahead of us and I can’t fathom anything like that right now.”

So if you don’t see the TYES parents of young children at your local Transgender Day of Remembrance, please know that the victims, the families, the loved ones and all of those who are transgender and gender nonconforming are deeply in our hearts today. Those of us who can, will be beside you to share your grief, feel the outrage of lives senselessly lost, demand justice, and work for an end to ignorance.

To our TYES families who stand in courage and face the injustice every day, who worry about the future of our innocent, beautiful children, we are changing the world with love. We fight for justice and dignity every day so our kids will not have to grow up and face this battle alone. We will be there with our child through transition, blockers, hormones, dating, surgery and everything in between. Even with all the challenges we face, we know that we are lucky, that our children are lucky. We have had the great fortune to meet and affirm our children during their childhood, and to find the resources that will help us provide as much protection for them as we possibly can. Our feelings of being overwhelmed, fearful or sad may keep us from attending a service today, but perhaps each of us can offer a moment of silence for our fallen victims, or an editorial, or a prayer, or a light a candle at home. The important thing is that we all remember and never forget these very special lives and the crimes that took them. Our past victims and our future generations deserve no less.

(Among our TYES families there is great diversity; racially, economically, religious affiliation (or none), gender nonconforming, transitioned (or not), stealth, out, activists, quietly strong, siblings, parents etc. It is our hope that all Colorado families with gender nonconforming children will feel free to contact our group to feel supported, to get questions answered and to find the resources they need. We are not experts, only families working together to love and protect our children. The resources and knowledge we have to share come from our experience with our children who range in age from 4 year olds to teenagers. Together may we work to end all of the injustice this day represents.)

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