Friday, November 28, 2014

TDOR 2014: Deaths in Foreign Countries

This past Saturday I went to a Transgender Day of Remembrance event at my church. It was much like the one I wrote about last year. I didn't go to any TDOR event hosted by people of color this year. But I did read the article "Remembering Us When We’re Gone, Ignoring Us While We’re Here," which agrees with my experience of white TDOR events:
Trans Day of Remembrance is filled to the brim with the names of murdered Black and brown trans women, but is a single evening of remembering enough? And what does it mean that TDoR doesn’t explicitly talk about race and is often dominated by white people? . . . We only hear about trans women after their deaths. And even our deaths are not our own. A week doesn’t go by without a white queer citing the deaths of trans women of color as the evidence of how oppressed they are.
Let me reiterate: white people using the deaths of people of color as an example of how much danger they, white people, are in, does not make sense. It is not fair. In fact, it's selfish.

One of the names we read was the name of a black trans woman who lived and died right here in New Orleans. Brenisha Hall. (Ironically, her name was spelled wrong on the list of names that was handed out to us.) As far as I know, none of the people at our event knew her personally. Why didn't we know her?

Also, no one mentioned Leslie Feinberg, who died on November 15. Technically ze was not murdered. But ze still deserves to be remembered. (How often does a famous transgender person die, anyway?)

Maybe I'm being overly judgmental. The other people at this event all seemed very much moved by the ceremony. But I can't put these questions out of my mind: do we, white trans people, have a relationship with trans people of color? What is that relationship? Shouldn't we acknowledge the relationship before they die, as well as afterwards? We claim their deaths as ours. But while they lived, they might as well have been living in a foreign country.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The New Cheyenne Autumn

Recently I read the book The New Jim Crow as part of an online book group. Aside from recommending that everyone should read it, I don't really know what to say about it. Why does America, "the land of the free," have more people in prison than any other country? Why do police have free rein to confiscate the property of citizens who haven't been charged - let alone convicted - of any crime?

Supposedly this is caused by the war on drugs. But when we learn that black people and white people sell and use illegal drugs at equal rates - and yet black people are much more likely to go to jail for drug offenses - then it appears that there is something else going on.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

"Fix the World" vs. "Fix Yourself"

Recently someone came and preached at my church about his social justice work. I have to say that he rubbed me the wrong way in his very first sentence. He said we were called upon to minister to people whom "society considers to be unlovable."

As a transgender person, I often feel that I belong to a group which society considers to be unlovable. But I do not like being reminded of that fact from the pulpit. Also, even if "society" considers us to be unlovable, we still love ourselves. We can still find people who love us. Love is still present in our lives.

More importantly from a social justice perspective, it is not love that we want. It is justice. (To paraphrase Frances E. W. Harper.) I don't need everybody to love me. I need people not to discriminate against me. I need people to respect me. I need people to treat me the same as everyone else. If you "love" everyone, you can love me too. But in my experience very few people love everyone.