The following is a speech delivered last week at the San Diego LGBT Community Center by transgender rights activist Blue Montana as part of the Center's 2014 Transgender Day of Remembrance observance:
Standing here now, my heart is in a million pieces, and the tears filling my soul make me feel like I'm drowning. Five sisters of ours were murdered in 41 days. Anaya Parker was surrounded and harassed, then shot as she was crossing the street to get away from her attackers. Do you know how many people stopped to help her when they saw her laying on the side of Santa Monica Boulevard?
None. They drove by her like she didn't matter. I got the opportunity to met Anaya's mom at an event. As we talked she told me she had no idea about the high numbers of trans women who were being slaughtered until it happened to Anaya. When I mentioned five trans women had been murdered in 41 days, that the U.S. was fourth in the world this year in trans women being murdered, and that all together there were over 200 names to read, she had a look of disbelief on her face as the tears started to fall.
She then asked what was being done to stop these senseless attacks and murders. I just looked at her with a blank stare for a minute or two. The light in my eyes went dark when I realized I had to give her the news: There is hardly anything that is being done as the numbers rise every year.
Still, we gather every year to remember those we lost. But what is really being done to call attention to these hate crimes in the broader community, in America and the world at large? The answer is very little. True, the LGBT community has a few small media campaigns that try to get some public attention focused on the problem. Most of those small initiatives are trans led. But we need more.
We need the Anaya Parkers and the Isis Nettles and the Gizzy Fowlers to matter more than than just one day per year. We need these and thousands of other transgender women to matter more to those sitting here in this room and at other remembrance events across the world. Sitting in this room today, remembering these individuals, one thing is poignantly clear: There are very few if any murdered transgender men being remembered here today. If you're wondering why, it's pretty simple really. We don't have as high of an oppression rate as trans women. Put more specifically, no one group suffers as high of a rate of oppression and violence as do trans women of color.
Are we trans men victims of harassment and discrimination? Absolutely. Is there a solution to this issue of trans women of color being murdered? Perhaps there is not an absolute solution, but more work can be done toward attempting to solve the problem than is currently being done. Small campaigns like this observance of Transgender Day of Remembrance and others like it held around the country are helpful. The We Matter campaign is a start. But much more can be done. We need the deep pockets and media outreach of larger, established LGBT-advocacy and human rights organizations. We need to start truly major media campaigns that call daily attention to these senseless killings.
We need more resources and options to help young trans women and give them a reason to believe that they're worth more than they've been led to believe myth and stereotypes; that the value they bring to the trans community, the LGBT community, and to the world.
Transgender women have for too long been seriously undervalued. They are worth much more than existences that, because of societal oppression and violence, amount to little more than struggling to survive. We need police departments to initially view these murders as hate crimes, not as robberies, or random attacks. We need to educate, educate, educate, and urge every single person to stand up and defend the rights of the trans community, specifically trans women of color -- starting with the simple exist.
We need to check our own privilege and spread some of that privilege to those that are disenfranchised. We may never fully get across the seriousness of the situation at hand to those who have the money and resources put an end the need for a Transgender Day of Awareness. But we have to try.
I ask you to stand with the trans community and the memory of every single trans individual transgender human being who has been murdered, harassed, attacked, and bullied simply for being authentic. Its time stand up and start fighting back. Next year, a trans march on Sacramento is planned for November 18 as part of a 2015 Trans Day of Action. We will call attention to the trans community that is now being ignored, misunderstood and neglected. We will talk to legislators and policy-makers about creating bills and finding the resources to help the entire trans community -- especially transgender women of color.
We must all make saving their endangered lives. Stand up. Help these amazing women so we can cultivate lasting change that will, in the final analysis, benefit all of humankind. Thank you.