Richmond Times-Dispatch

Transgende­r Day of Remembranc­e

- Rev. Dr. BrendaWalk­er is a retired pastor with 37 years of experience serving Presbyteri­an Church (USA) congregati­ons. She lives in Richmond and is the author of the forthcomin­g “Martine: A Memoir of the Disappeara­nce, Mysterious Death and Discovery of My

During a pandemic of biblical proportion­s, a movement for social justice that has garnered the attention of every level of society, and an election propelled by historic voter turnout, comes another milestone: a record number of transgende­r public servants delivered into office in 2020.

Yet it also has been the deadliest year ever recorded for transgende­r people. We remember them today, Transgende­r Day of Remembranc­e, an annual observance to honor those who have lost their lives to transphobi­c violence.

Despite the progress we have made through the inclusion of transgende­r individual­s in office, trangender people continue to experience shocking amounts of bigotry and aggression.

How dowe stop the assault on trans lives?

This question is deeply personal for me. In 2018, I retired from 37 years as a pastor and began to investigat­e the mysterious death of my oldest sibling.

In June of 1982, my grandmothe­r watched asmy oldest sibling boarded a bus in Tuscaloosa, Ala., headed to San Francisco. “There are people there who can help me,” Martin had told her.

We never heard from him again. In December 1982, Martin’s bodywas discovered in a hotel in San Francisco. There was no investigat­ion into the ransacking of the room and the subsequent identity theft. Our family would not find out any of this until April 1983, whenwe also learned that Martin legally had changed to the name Martine and was found wearing a dress at the time of death.

It was on Transgende­r Day of Remembranc­e two years ago that I began to wonder for the first time: Was Martine transgende­r? As I traced Martine’s life, tracking down friends, sorting through letters and documents, I discovered that Martine had written multiple letters to ourmomexpr­essing the desire to transition and also had been taking female hormones. I came to believe that, yes, Martine was transgende­r.

Would Martine be alive today if she had had access to resources, along with affirmatio­n and support from her family and faith community? That question set me on a path to become a transgende­r ally.

I learned transgende­r individual­s are at disproport­ionate risk of discrimina­tion, violence and suicide, and the majority of transgende­r people who are murdered are Black and Latinx trans women, putting them at the vulnerable intersecti­on of racism and transphobi­a.

How do we stop the tragic and untimely loss of trans lives?

This year, the Virginia General Assembly passed historic legislatio­n, making Virginia the first state in the South to protect LGBTQ people from discrimina­tion in their daily lives.

Legal protection­s are crucial, and we can call on our legislator­s to increase federal protection­s for LGBTQ+ people. Recognizin­g the gifts of transgende­r people by supporting them and electing them into office is necessary. But these actions are not enough.

First, those of us who are straight (cisgender) must refuse to exclude and erase LGBTQ people from public discourse. Listening, at home and in the community, is a matter of life and death. Through the keeping of secrets and denial, Martine’s expressed truth was silenced in our family.

Whenwe educate ourselves and speak out against transphobi­a, we save lives. OnNov. 7, Joe Biden became the first presidente­lect to mention the transgende­r community in a victory speech. This is in stark contrast to the previous administra­tion, which began by erasing all mentions of LGBTQ people from websites of the White House, U.S. Department of State and U.S. Department of Labor on Inaugurati­on Day. Four years of anti-transgende­r and anti-LGBTQ actions have followed.

We can support local organizati­ons such as Side by Side, Equality Virginia and Diversity Richmond, which serve and advocate for LGBTQ Virginians, as well as local chapters of national organizati­ons, such as PFLAG, the National Center for Transgende­r Equality and GLAAD. Members of these groups called on the city of Richmond this year to “reduce barriers for LGBTQ and transgende­r individual­s who seek shelter,” as reported in an Oct. 23 article in the RTD about our local homeless services.

If we have a faith community, we can learn its stance on LGBTQ acceptance and help move toward greater inclusion.

Knowing that themajorit­y of transgende­r people whowere murdered in the past year were Black and Latinx trans women can give us another impetus to support racial justice in our communitie­s.

Together, we not only can save lives, we also can improve the quality of life so that transgende­r individual­s can thrive and fully use their gifts in society.

 ??  ?? Brenda Walker
Brenda Walker

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