CW: transphobic violence, anti-Black police brutality, suicide
Last week was Trans Awareness Week, ending with a solemn Friday that was Trans Day of Remembrance (TDoR).
As it coincided with Shabbat, I attended a TDoR Jewish service held online for trans Jews across the UK, along with one of the university’s TDoR events earlier on in the evening. I was greeted in the latter with “nice to see a diverse group of people,” which I was surprised by (or perhaps shouldn’t have been), because it was a white transmasculine people/trans man-dominated event. Was I and my flatmate, the only visibly PoC there, and the few transfeminine people/trans women there their ‘diversity?’ It was performative as much as it was performance-based. Maybe the performances were a way to celebrate trans people who live today, but I and my flatmate (transmasculine southeast Asian people) didn’t feel represented and found them difficult to relate to.
Who was speaking for trans women sex workers in Southeast Asia, who are exploited, abused, and murdered by white military men who take advantage of sex tourism in Southeast Asia, enabled by US imperialist military presence occupying Southeast/East Asia? Who apart from Jennifer Laude’s family and community were asking for justice for her after her murderer, a white US military man, Scott Pemberton, wasn’t held accountable?
Who focussed on the justice for Black trans police brutality victims Tony McDade, Riah Milton and Dominique Rem’mie Fells in ways that actively ensure this violence isn’t repeated? Not to mention there are more undocumented examples of such cases, Black trans people whose names we don’t even know.
And we have a habit of overcompensating for the lack of solidarity for Black trans women by mentioning Martha P Johnson as the one who threw the brick during the Stonewall riots, everytime Pride comes around. She has said multiple times she didn’t, and it doesn’t help to iconise a single Black trans woman for doing all the work. We must not place the onus on Black trans women to do the entirety of the work of challenging a trans misogynistic society, because it must be a collective effort.
There’s one such trans-led collective for trans people in Edinburgh. Mutual Aid Trans Edinburgh (MATE) has been doing various work to fundraise for trans people, delivering masks and necessities (yes, this includes hormones because for trans people who take them, it’s an essential item) to isolated trans people in Edinburgh and more. I encourage people to join and help them.
The TDoR Shabbat service was much better, with a more solemn feeling fitting the occasion, and saying prayers for (and written by) Black trans women and sex workers allowed us to centre them, the marginalised within the marginalised.
I follow Korean queer and trans pages, so I also saw how Seoul had banners for TDoR lining the streets. Seeing it made me cry, because they were using a tag that roughly translates to ‘I have the right to die as myself.’
In Edinburgh alone, we lost trans women such as Danielle ‘Dani’ Myriam, and in Scotland more recently, Rebecca Ann, via suicide. Their trans comrades remember them in sorrow, because we’re no strangers to deaths in our community. ‘The right to die as myself’ stings, because a lot of the time, people in our community, especially trans women, aren’t given a respectful burial by their family, who misgender and deadname them on their gravestones.
We grieve… for what? How long must we grieve for? As I weep with other trans people remembering lives lost to us, as I say with other trans jews ‘yehi zichro/zichra mahapecha’ (may his/her memory be for a revolution), I urge everyone to actively fight for us and our siblings.
Image: Holly Summerson via Mutual Aid Trans Edinburgh (MATE)