Last week I had the great fortune of spending three days on the North Shore of Lake Superior with my partner and their family. For those of you who are close to me, or if you read my interview on how I would describe my gender, you know that Lake Superior’s shores are one of the places in which I feel most seen, reflected, and held.
In contrast to that, I was checking my Facebook feed as we headed back to the city on Saturday and saw the news of the murders of India Clarke and K.C. Haggard, both trans women of color.
Eleven trans women of color have been murdered in 2015.
And those are only the murders that were reported by the media.
Today I want to hold them up in the light.
I want to publish their names.
I want to use their correct pronouns: she.
I want to use the names they called themselves.
I want to state that they did nothing—nothing—to deserve the violence upon their lives.
I want you to read their names:
Papi Edwards (20 years old).
Lamia Beard (30).
Ty Underwood (24).
Yazmin Vash Payne (33).
Taja Gabrielle DeJesus (33).
Penny Proud (21).
Kristina Gomez Reinwald aka Kristina Grant Infiniti (46).
London Chanel (21).
Mercedes Williamson (17).
India Clarke (25).
K.C. Haggard (66).
And this list doesn’t include the names of trans women of color who may have taken their own lives this year.
Why does acknowledging the murders of these trans women of color matter?
Because people of color tend to experience more discrimination and acts of violence than people who are White. One can witness this fact by simply reading the news. Or by paying attention in the world.
Because add a minority identity to a minority identity and the result is more exponential than simple addition: trans women of color are likely the group most victimized by hate violence in the United States.
Because they were beautiful human beings that deserved to be held in the light rather than brutally murdered.
Because not every trans woman’s experience is like Caitlyn Jenner’s. Not even close. (Read Laverne Cox’s statement on the work ahead for trans* folks).
On our last hike of the trip, my partner and I saw a dead dragonfly cradled between two boulders, a fallen butterfly on top of the green grass, and the remains of a seagull on the edge of the rocky shore.
My partner asked me what I thought it meant that we found all three of these winged creatures after they had died, and on the same day, no less.
And I replied: sometimes our wings get clipped.
As humans it’s not our job to clip wings. But we do it all the time. Sometimes knowingly, and sometimes unknowingly.
As I’ve stated before: we all have biases. All of us. We all grew up internalizing messages about right and wrong ways of being in the world.
It’s our job to unpack those messages.
It’s our job to build up, to love, to hold each other up in the light.
We have enough working against us already; some of us more than others.
We need more love in the world.
Much less violence. Much more love.
Which reminds me of one of my favorite quotes:
Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. ~Rumi
The one thing you can do today to make a difference in the life of someone who identifies as trans* and/or gender nonconforming is this: you can keep the names of the eleven trans* women of color who have been murdered this year in your heart.
You can use the correct pronouns and names when speaking of them.
You can read about the lives and experiences of trans women of color, such as Redefining Realness by the badass Janet Mock.
You can begin to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against love.
Help me hold these trans women of color in the light. Share this post on Facebook or other social media platforms. Let their names be heard.