As a general rule, I’m not personally big on ritual in a formalized sense. Perhaps it’s my history in Evangelical Christianity but all too often my sense is what becomes ritual too often becomes insincere. One need look no further than the ongoing kerfuffle over anthems and flags and kneeling and standing and even that is not new, even beyond protesting every so often there’s some minor blowup because someone wasn’t putting his hand in the right place or wearing the right pin or whatever. Thousands of words could be written about how we as a culture are bound in self-inflicted chains because we love our traditionalistic rituals.
I don’t think, however, that the Transgender Day of Remembrance has fallen into that trap yet. Every year I write something in this space in observation of that event and that’s in no small part because the wounds are always fresh, the hearts still newly broken, the fear, pain, and stress still ongoing. Other sites do a much more through job in documenting the details each year, but there are some “cliff’s notes” details worth summarizing.
Each year the TDOR lists and memorializes trans victims of violent deaths, and occasionally those who while not professed trans were presenting in such a way as they would have been assumed to be at the time of their death.
The time period covered by these lists is from November 1 of one year to October 31 of the next.
These victims are typically overwhelmingly transwomen and in the majority women of color.
This year the list includes 24 victims in the United States.
Around the world, by far the deadliest place to be trans is Latin America, particularly in Brazil which lists over 150 victims.
It is important to remember that these are the REPORTED victims. It is certain there are many more unreported. About that..
The biggest weakness of this effort lies in the spotty and often completely absent reporting. We know from the higher profile cases that police and journalist have a notorious and persistent habit of misgendering and de-transitioning a victim after her death. Unless challenged by aware and vocal friends, it’s not uncommon fora murdered transwoman to be identified as a male, use of the deadname, and no comment at all made about their gender identity in police reports which all too often translates into the context of any news story. It is highly probable that not all such cases are caught out and many out trans victims lose their identity in death in this way. Such victims are thus lost into the sands of history without ever being memorialized by name at events like this one.
Another failing is that, at least in it’s formally described purpose, the event does not recognize those lost to suicide which all too often results from the violence and psychological abuse brought against these victims. Of course here, even more so, the numbers and the names defy easy cataloging. It’s always difficult to identify from the outside when a death was by one’s own hand, still more difficult to discern motive, and even more difficult than that when you deal with families that more often than not are furiously obsessed with erasing their loved one’s gender profession posthumously.
But these, our brothers and sisters, are just as much victims of violence as the murder victims in their own way. We all live in a culture that, though changing, still serves as an engine of unrelenting hostility towards trans people. An abusive culture which can and does do psychological violence to Trans people which is a key component in the violence they do to themselves. Spare a thought for them as well tomorrow. Both those we know about and those who died in anonymity.
Then we all need to refocus on creating a society in which this ritual is also outdated.