Thursday, December 3, 2015

"Give Us Our Roses While We're Still Here"

A couple weeks ago I marched in BreakOUT's trans march. BreakOUT! is a local trans youth organization, primarily trans youth of color. You can see the original "Give Us Our Roses" poster on their website.

As I was walking along, listening to the chants, I suddenly remembered when people used to say "Silence = Death" and I realized that the same thing is happening now. When people's lives are in danger, they take to the streets. It's a chance to find out whether or not the majority cares when gay men die of AIDS or trans women of color are murdered.

In fact, after the march was over I did see someone wearing a "Silence = Death" T-shirt. I thought about going over to talk to him but then realized I couldn't do it. By which I mean, I had been crying before and I felt myself getting choked up again. So I just went home.

Apparently only one trans person, Penny Proud, was murdered in New Orleans this year. There were other deaths though. One white trans woman killed herself in November -- someone I didn't know personally, although many of my friends did. I don't know how many others. What I do know is that I hear black people say "I've been to so many funerals." The only time I hear white people say that is when they're talking about AIDS.

Is it only death that gets people to feel sympathy? (I'm thinking of all the tragic deaths we see in movies, from Waterloo Bridge to The Dallas Buyers Club.) That is what kills us: so often our lives don't attract sympathy. It's as if the only thing we can do right is to die. "Nothing in his life became him like the leaving it." Many times I've heard Transgender Day of Remembrance described as an opportunity to inform cis people that we don't deserve to die. And we don't. But is that the only moral appeal we have?

Perhaps people admire those who are willing to die for what they believe in, like Harvey Milk. Can we also live for what we believe in? Is that worth more than dying? When do we achieve admiration for our survival? I guess in order for that to happen, people would have to acknowledge just how heroic our survival is. Give us our roses while we're still here.

(Once or twice people have called me "brave." I hate that. But collectively we are brave.)