We are gathered this evening in Winona, Minn., trans* people and allies alike, to remember those of our trans* community who have been murdered this past year because of the fear and hatred spawned by transphobia, racism, classism, sexism, cissexism, and transmisogyny. We are here to acknowledge and name our grief in a public way. We are here to name aloud and in our hearts those who were murdered, who lived their lives in the best way they could achieve, whose lives were valuable, who were most vulnerable to the violence that is all too often wrought against us.
This past year 238 trans* people were murdered worldwide, according to Transgender Europe's Transgender Murder Project. And these are just a fraction of the real number of deaths, because many go unreported, are not designated as hate crimes, or are not recognized as deaths of trans* people, because the media frequently reports birth-assigned names and sexes without honoring the true chosen names and gender identities of the victims. Some law enforcement officials may look upon many of these murders as deaths of disposable people, people whom society looks upon as freaks and outcasts, and the murders frequently go unsolved. This violence disproportionally takes the lives of trans women of color, who live at the intersection of oppression between racism and transphobia.
Our grief surrounding these tragic deaths is felt very deeply, but our gathering this evening is more than a remembrance or memorial. We gather in mutual support of one another, to uplift one another, to let everyone know that we are here and we matter!
We celebrate that we are a resilient people, we are a resilient community, we care for one another, we advocate for one another, and we continue to rise up, to live our lives in dignity and truth, and to bring about change in our society.
Our presence here is an act of defiance, a standing up and calling out for justice, especially for those among us who are most vulnerable. Our presence here is a way to assert our dignity. Our presence here is an act of hope. Our presence here gives voice to our commitment to live each day with courage, strength and determination, knowing full well who we are and that we matter!
So for all trans* people who are subjected to verbal and physical harassment and emotional and physical violence: We matter!
For all trans* people who are continually being misnamed and referred to by inappropriate pronouns just because some cisgender people refuse to recognize their identities or fail to care enough to work on getting it right.
For my trans* friend who stopped by a shop the other day for her morning coffee and asked the barista to repeat something that the barista had said. The barista turned to her coworker and shouted, "I don't think it can hear," whereupon her coworker asked my friend in a derisive tone, "Are you a dude or a chick?"
For my trans* friend who suffered the trauma and humiliation of having her genitalia groped by a woman while shopping in a store because the woman wanted to know what was between my friend's legs.
For my trans* friend who was "unwelcomed" by her pastor and was left without a faith community to love and support her.
For all trans* people who plan their days around where they can access safe restrooms and are harassed and denied entry to a restroom appropriate to their gender identity when they simply have to pee, or who suffer kidney infections because they continually have to hold it.
For my young trans* friend who, prior to his transition, was an invisible young woman of color but who now feels that he has a target on his back as a young trans man of color.
For my young trans* friend whose family disowned them when they came out.
For all trans* people who are refused medical care because their complex bodies do not match what some health care workers deem to be proper bodies.
For all trans* people who can't access the health care they require because insurance policies refuse to cover the care they need.
For my trans* friend who nearly died from repeated and failed phalloplasties.
For all the trans* people who have lost their jobs and can't find work because simply because they are trans* and the laws of many states and the laws of the federal government do not protect them.
For all the trans* people who are living in poverty or are homeless because their families have rejected them, or because they can't find work or lost their jobs when they came out.
For all the trans* people who have turned to sex work because they have no other way to survive.
For all trans* people who are treated badly by some members of the law enforcement system because they are looked upon as freaks.
For all the trans* people who are incarcerated and housed in cell blocks inappropriate to their gender identity, where they are especially vulnerable to violence.
For the 41 percent of trans* people in the United States who have attempted suicide.
For the young gender-nonconforming person who was set on fire last week on a bus in Oakland, Calif., because they were perceived as male but were wearing a skirt.
And for all those who were murdered, named and unnamed, we mourn your deaths and celebrate your lives. You matter! We all matter!