Rita Hester, described as a popular, outgoing transwoman with ties to Boston’s transgender and rock-n-roll communities was found stabbed to death in her apartment by Allston MA in November, 1998. Her murder remains unsolved.
The brutality of the crime (she was stabbed 20 times but the apartment was not robbed), combined with inappropriate and negative media coverage (she was mis-gendered in the press) prompted an outcry and protests from the transgender and allied communities who came to believe Hester’s murder was a hate crime. Trans Community members organized a candlelight vigil and march in Allston that December. This vigil inspired the “Remembering Our Dead“ web project and from this grew the now international Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) which occurs annually on November 20th.
TDOR is a solemn day to memorialize all those trans and gender non-conforming people who have been killed as a result of transphobia. The statistics are staggering and heartbreaking. According to a 2012 report from the National Coalition of Anti Violence Program’s Fast Facts about Violence Against Transgender People 19% have experienced domestic violence at the hands of a family member because of their transgender identity or gender non‐conformity; Of those who expressed a transgender identity or gender non‐conformity while in grades K‐12; 78% experienced harassment; 31% experienced harassment from teachers or staff; 35% experienced physical assault; 5% were physically assaulted by teachers or staff; 12% experienced sexual violence; and 3% were sexually assaulted by teachers or staff. And that’s just for starters.
Randall Ellison, a bisexual, trans*/gender non-conforming and asexual rights activist, artist and DJ from Champaign IL is no stranger to harrassment. Ellison’s thoughts:
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign held its annual candlelight vigil on campus this past Wednesday. I was blessed to be in the company of so many like-minded friends and allies. I even found the courage to tell my story of being bullied and banned from our local mall because of my feminine appearance. It felt empowering to finally share what had been a deeply traumatizing experience.
I’ve always been openly genderqueer, but sadly that can still invite many hostile reactions, even in the workplace. I’ve not come out about my sexual orientation to most of my friends, particularly due to the stigma of bisexuality. However, I am fortunate to live in a city that is progressive and has long had legal protections for transgender people. Not all of my peers are nearly as fortunate.
As we reflect on the transgender community and its struggles today, we must keep our voices strong to ensure that those whom we’ve lost through hatred, bigotry, and violence are never truly silenced.”
Bi-Trans Activist Marisa Thomas is the founder of a group in Orange County, California called OC-Girls. It’s a Meeting Place & Community for ALL Orange County’s Girls – Trans, Cross, Queer, Questioning & Family & Allies for Support, Outreach, Education & Advocacy. This is the story she tells:
“As a trans woman growing up I experienced, as so many of us do, quite a bit of bullying, torment and even violence just for being who I am. As a child I was first embarrassed in kindergarten by a student, and worst of all, by the teacher, for lining up with the girls for recess – it was publicly explained to me that I was a boy and not a girl and that I was to line up with the boys. It was then I realized that I would never let anyone know about how I felt ever again! Throughout elementary and junior high school I would regularly be called sissy, faggot, queer. Not only did I strive to prove that I was ok, but also that I was a boy. Whatever that was (a boy)! I wasn’t sure. Nor was I sure that was what I wanted to be. I just wanted to fit in and not be the outcast – the sissy, the one that was teased. I tried to be a boy, playing ball, riding bikes and being one of the most daring daredevils, and I learned to fight AND win!
Eventually, when I was living in Houston and I found the gay bars and trans bars. During that time I began to get a little more comfortable and open. One night walking home, I was dressed to the nines, in heels and pretty hot if I say so myself. But I guess walking was an invitation to be harassed by three cowboy guys that wanted to have fun with a tranny! After struggling and being held and punched so that they could subdue me and rape me, I struggled free and stuck out with my heels and was able to run and hide in an alley behind a dumpster. That night I was grateful I had learned to fight in my younger years! Had I not, I’m not sure what would have happened to me.
What I know today is that it is likely only through grace and fortune that I am not a statistic, but can be an advocate, a voice. and today I am not only very grateful, but am honored and privileged to be an open, and out transgender, transsexual,bisexual woman.
Coming out as Bi was a whole other issue. As I grew up I thought I had to be a straight male – but I wasn’t a man. Then I tried to be a gay male, but again I wasn’t a man. Then as a trans woman, I have been lesbian identified, but I am not just a lesbian. I have come to accept, own and love that I am a polyamorous bisexual.”
“Trans Day of Remembrance is one of the hardest days for me because it makes me confront the fact that Trans People, more often than not Trans Women of Color, are demonized by the dominant culture. It hurts my heart to hear that upwards of 265 Trans People have been taken from this world too soon this year, and in horrific ways. After losing friends in both the Bisexual and Trans Communities over the years, I decided that I needed to create space for all of us to get together and build community. Thus, the Trans Bi Brunch was born as a positive response to TDoR. This brunch happens on the 4th Saturday of the month, 12:30pm at a local eatery called Crepevine on Church at Market in San Francisco, and it is a space where the Trans and Bisexual Communities connect.”
We can only hope that with all our work in the years to come this day will sip away into the clouds of history and it’s necessity will become an old forgotton sorrow. Mr. Rawlings-Fein brings us this TDOR Prayer by Rabbi Reuben Zellman and we join BiNet USA in reprinting it here:
“God full of mercy, bless the souls of all who are in our hearts on this Transgender Day of Remembrance. We call to mind today young and old, of every race, faith, and gender experience, who have died by violence. We remember those who have died because they would not hide, or did not pass, or did pass, or stood too proud. Today we name them: the reluctant activist; the fiery hurler of heels; the warrior for quiet truth; the one whom no one really knew.
As many as we can name, there are thousands more whom we cannot, and for whom no Kaddish may have been said. We mourn their senseless deaths, and give thanks for their lives, for their teaching, and for the brief glow of each holy flame. We pray for the strength to carry on their legacy of vision, bravery, and love.
And as we remember them, we remember with them the thousands more who have taken their own lives. We pray for resolve to root out the injustice, ignorance, and cruelty that grow despair. And we pray, God, that all those who perpetrate hate and violence will speedily come to understand that Your creation has many faces, many genders, many holy expressions.
Blessed are they, who have allowed their divine image to shine in the world.
Blessed is God, in Whom no light is extinguished.”