This holiday season, I ask that rather than giving gifts we give against. Specifically, I would ask that you give against homophobia and transphobia. This year, as in years past, homophobia and transphobia are alive and well. Many Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans* and Queer Americans saw the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) struck down this year and rejoiced in expanded marriage rights and growing federal protections. Important yes, but cold comfort to trans* people who live under threat of violence and murder every day. Most acts of homophobia are actually based on gender expression. Individuals who do not conform to socially accepted standards of masculinity and femininity or who intentionally subvert these norms are at increased risk of harm. Thus, homophobia is directly linked to transphobia.
Each year, on November 20th the trans* community observes Transgender Day of Remembrance to honor and grieve those murdered during the year. In 2012, 72 trans* people were murdered. Undoubtedly, there were countless others who may remain unknown, but looking through the names and stories the horrors are unconscionable. In South Africa, Thapelo Makutle had her throat cut, was partially decapitated and had her genitals stuffed in her mouth. Tiffany Gooden of Chicago died of multiple stab wounds. The dead are overwhelmingly women of color; the average age, 27 years old.
Just this past August in Harlem, a 20 year old trans* woman, Islan Nettles, was beaten to death. According to New York Magazine, Nettles was murdered when a man “made a pass at [her] and was shocked to learn she was not born a woman. Nettles and her friends were called f*ggots, they were called he-shes, and she-males.” Nettles attacker then hit her with a closed fist, and even after Nettles fell to the ground, she was continually beaten. The police found her “unconscious with a swollen shut eye and blood on her face.” Nettles died days later at Harlem Hospital.
When I attended Islan’s public memorial, I was faced with the reality that as a trans* person, myself, I am at risk of violence every day. However, as a white trans* man, my likelihood of experiencing violence is considerably less than that of trans* women of color . According to the “2012 Hate Violence Report” released by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, trans* women make up about 53 percent of all anti-LGBTQ murders.
I can think of no other group that is targeted for violence at the same rate as transgender women of color. This will continue until our society agrees that trans* people are worthy of love, support and protection. There are several grassroots agencies working with the communities most affected by this violence to end homophobia and transphobia. I urge you to consider donating to them. The Audre Lorde Project (http://alp.org/) is a community organization by and for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Two Spirit, Trans* and Gender Non-Conforming people of color. The Anti-Violence Project (http://www.avp.org/) empowers Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and HIV-affected communities and allies to end all forms of violence through organizing and education.
I’m tired of reading about trans* women of color being murdered simply for being who they are. I’m tired of trans* women of color not being able to reach their thirties. Although it is true that I am at less risk of violence as a white trans* man, no queer person is free unless all those in our community are safe. Communities must work together, regardless of race and gender differences. Violence against any is violence against all, and we will end it.
by Finn Brigham