Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Forgetting the Transgender Day of Remembrance

Everyone said the names of the dead aloud and rang bells to reflect the dimming of their lights in an all-too-early sunset. We hugged. There were tears. It was over.
"Lessons From My First Transgender Day of Remembrance"
Shane'a Thomas

the Transgender Day of Remembrance
took place on 20 November 2013
to a troubled outpouring of support



Perhaps because I'm used to getting weird looks from passers-by, and that special category of passers-by known as casual acquaintances, but the extra somber looks today would have not registered at all if I hadn't been informed by my "Twitt-Face" feed that it was the Transgender Day of Remembrance. I had forgotten!

The playful irony that I had forgotten to remember brought to light how Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr,list-servers for the HRC, and newsie sources like the Huffington Post are sort of acting like a Queer Remembral. Today it turned purple (Seriously? Trans* gets to be the color Purple? Nice! Also, when did we start assigning specific colors within the queer rainbow?). But like the remembral from JK Rowling's Harry Potter series, it simply tells you that you "forgot" something but leaves you blank on what exactly it is you forgot. I feel like that today.

Looking at a few of the head-lines, I am even less certain what it is I was supposed to remember:

After reading through many of these, I still don't know exactly why "you, yes you, need to care"(emphasis mine). This is not a flippancy, but a frustration. Why are we being so vague and/or setting the bar so low? What exactly are we saying when we claim/demand remembrance? 

Not in other words, but in their own words, they are literally saying this:
  • Care.
  • Value.
  • Matter.
  • Paint.
  • Watch.

This boils down to: look at us, frown a little, and say "what a shame." There is a value to looking at us for a change, but it becomes reduced to that: looking at us for (i.e. to enact, to cause, to be the source of emergence of) change. This day asks nothing of the public. If it does, it is nothing specific, nothing more than can be accomplished by reading a head-line and maybe "sharing" or "liking" or "pinning" or "retweeting." At least before the Twitternet, people would go through the effort of physically pinning something to their coat. I'd rather be an intrusion to your wardrobe or an annoyance when you take it off at night than just a line on your news-feed.

Trans people, especially those victims of violence (homelessness, poverty, prison, racism, sexism, homophobia, bar-fights, being shot in the head by a DC cop, rape, being fired, being made an example, being forced to speak on behalf of someone, dumping us because you are tired of having to explain your relationship to people, legally or illegally keeping us from using bathrooms, invading our bodies and property in airport security check-points, barring us from sports, avoiding us on the street, turning us into your queer confessors on the train, taking our picture with your iPhone and forgetting you had the flash on, giving us a character on Glee but refusing to give her any storylines or even to use the word "Trans," telling us our wardrobe makes you uncomfortable, insisting on inappropriate names or pronouns, bullying teenagers, bullying kids, bulling adults, suicide) are reduced to head-lines without stories and without re/action every day. If you want to find us, your best bet on any given day is in the obituaries. They may or may not get our names and pronouns right. Today is nothing new.

Not a few of these articles on the TDoR sound exactly like an obituary section, particularly the Huffington Post's "Transgender Day of Remembrance 2013: A Reporter's List"

And tomorrow it will be worse. The Facebook newsfeed never stops. Soon we will become buried (and forgotten) again. 



I'd feel a quantum of solace in a Day of Remembrance if we forgot the word "Day." The preposition "of" I feel ambivalent about, you can keep or leave it. Make it the "Taco of Remembrance" because that would at least be tasty, especially if I got one. Give me a "Coat of Remembrance" because it is starting to get nippy out there. How about "Student Debt Relief of Remembrance" to help me work out my past or a "Job of Remembrance" to help ensure my future? What about "Health-Insurance of Remembrance" that actually covers Trans medicine? What about "Homes," "Meals," "Schools," "Churches" that Remember?

Or we could insist on Remembrance. A perpetual state of not simply awareness, but of bringing together. We are bodies that are literally dis-membered:

“Transgender people are believed to be victims of violence more often than others. One study showed that 27% of participants were victims of violence. Murders of transgender people have been reported in 20 states and 89 cities across the United States.

Suicidal ideation is increased in transgender people, and may be up to 64%.
(Emphasis mine. Source: American Medical Student Association,

Re-membrance should aim at replenishing our membership, by improving access to livable lives, re-enfranchising us from our displacement to the streets or prisons, giving us back our own bodies (inconstant & trans-formative they may be).

Re-membering may be all the more significant for those trans-women and intersex people who have undergone compulsory bottom surgery as the only "correct" and "legal" way to live out their gender. There may need to be reparations made to counter-act this violence. 

Remembering Transgender will and should cost you something.

Care, matter, value are all emotions that involve motion. Post-Christian secular societies still function as though abstractions were immaterial (spiritual in the negative sense). These are in fact embodied practices that do more than signify when they manifest. Care is given so that wounds may be healed. Matter forms structures of support. Value is given to provide for action.

There is real power and activity in ideas. Talk and education has its value and using the Transgender Day of Remembrance as a teaching moment is to already do more than not Forgetting but to actively Re-Member the bodies of the displaced by giving them a place in the conversation. We just need to keep on guard that this becomes more than a nominal or naturalized place. Discourse, argument, teaching, and converting people to a position remain a doing; or else the conversation is dead. 

The words, the care, the matter, and the value become as absent as the Trans bodies they are meant to mark. They become grave-stones, and we have had enough of those. We need more than a Day, we demand lives.

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