November is Transgender Awareness Month and it’s always thoughtfully capped off with Transgender Day of Remembrance, which memorializes trans people who have lost their lives to violence. I know I don’t speak for all trans people, but I for one love having a whole month dedicated to awareness ending on a grim note that also serves as a gentle reminder that I could be brutally murdered just for being me. It does a really effective job of snapping me back into the mindset of fear and isolation to last the other 11 months of the year.
Sarcasm aside, with a little over a month left in the year, 2016 has been declared the deadliest year on record for trans people in the U.S. According to GLAAD, 26 murders of trans people have been reported, surpassing last year’s record of 21. The victims were, much like last year, overwhelmingly trans women of color, who have to face racism along with transphobia, and all the institutional barriers that come with both. A 2016 report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs found that trans women of color consistently experience a greater risk of death or hate violence than any other group.
None of this is news to me. I feel like I’m just regurgitating the same information year after year, only modifying the death count to reflect what could be greater and more accurate reporting or increased violence faced by the trans community. I know the names. I have them memorized.
Clearly, passive remembrance isn’t enough. What is needed — now more than ever, in the wake of the election — is action to prevent violence against trans people in the first place. We as a society have come a long way from the first Trans Day of Remembrance back in 1999, but our attitudes remain frozen in time. Our goals shouldn’t have to just be survival. We’ve gone from our identity being labeled a mental illness to having trans icons gracing the covers of magazines. We’re visible and we’re empowered, so why are hatred and violence such pervasive parts of the trans experience?
For every trans person who was killed this year, there are many more that are alive and struggling. They remain unnoticed and unsupported. They experience bullying at school, discrimination at work or trouble getting hired, and physical violence from the police. They’re faced with a number of social and legal barriers, including laws that dictate what bathroom they can use and homeless shelters that invalidate their identity. Their struggles haven’t been erased so much as they have been categorically ignored. Why does it take death — violent, dehumanizing, innumerable — to get people to care?
More than anything, I’m frustrated with the current narrative that is the trans reality, and our compliance with it. We’re brave for being ourselves but we shouldn’t have to be. Our existence is resistance but it shouldn’t have to be. We shouldn’t need to have a day dedicated to our losses. I’m tired of being weighed down by a heavy, bloody history that I feel helpless to inherit. I hate feeling like I have an expiration date. I’m a human being. I won’t be reduced to a statistic, a name on a list that only gets read once a year.