When I’m gone will I be just another tally mark?
Bits in a database used to catalog another trans fatality?
Will my name, age, and a sentence or two summing up my life be printed on an index card to be read?
Will I be reduced to a few semi-viral shares on social media asking for “thoughts & prayers for the family”?
These questions have taken up residency in my grey matter.
Let me explain why.
This week is Transgender Awareness Week. A week meant to lift the spirits of trans folk and to bring more visibility to among other things, our successes. It precedes the Transgender Day of Remembrance. I have a very deep and complex relationship with this day. It is a day if mourning for transgender folk all over the world. We gather in our respective communities to read the names of our siblings who were killed due to violent acts over the past year. The local group I am part of will be reading SIXTY names this year.
I help in a few online groups to ensure those lost are remembered using their true names and pronouns. We spend hours researching news sources for phrases such as “Man killed while wearing female clothing” or “Random masculine/feminine name was also known by…” We also search for mention of some gender neutral names that many who are non-binary choose.
When we find an article that may list a possible lost sibling, we perform many searches. They include but aren’t limited to: social media, local news outlets, law enforcement, coroner reports, obituaries, crowdfunding for final expenses, mentions by family & friends, balloon releases, and vigils. The searches are used to “prove” the person was killed violently, and they identified as trans or gender diverse. Collection of the statistics is where it seems many organizations stop. Semi-viral posts sweep social media usually reporting these statistics.
The weight a trans person feels when they find out a person similar to them was killed violently can be tremendous. It can foster deep feelings of doubt and worthlessness. Doubt that we will ever be good enough to be accepted in society. Fears that our existences are no longer worthwhile, which can drive us to suicide.
Many trans people have empathic personality types. That is we are capable of placing ourselves in the situations of others. Some also the capability to mimic and share the emotional states of those we are connecting with. I am one of these people. Each name I help research ends up feeling like a close sibling. Their family’s and friend’s statements bring joy, sorrow, and even hatred to me in a way I can’t explain. I often cry for hours over each person lost. I try to counter these feelings by doing my self-care routines. Sometimes they help, other times the losses come in such quick succession that I find myself unable to cry, but still all the feelings and emotions build inside. When this happens, I find it hard to find any of the joy their families express at having had such a person in their lives.
Why then do I do this?
It is because our siblings deserve so much more than to be reduced to a statistic.
I deserve more, when I am also gone.