Mariel Addis: Thinking of my community on Transgender Day of Rememberance, and every day

  • In this Oct. 8, 2019, file photo, supporters of LGBTQ rights hold placards in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington. The Supreme Court ruled that a landmark civil rights law protects gay, lesbian and transgender people from discrimination in employment. It was a resounding victory for LGBTQ rights from a conservative court. AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Published: 11/19/2020 4:05:37 PM
Modified: 11/19/2020 4:05:27 PM

Nov. 20 is Trans Day of Remembrance, a day to remember the transgender people we have lost this year, as well as over the years. This day may not be on a lot of people’s radar screens, but for me, as a transgender woman, it becomes more and more important to me every year.

The Trump years have been a horrible time for many groups of people in this country, and the LGBTQI community has taken some big hits. There have also been some victories along the way as people become more aware of just who makes up this community. There are more positive portrayals of LGBTQI people in popular media in recent years. Also, there have been some wins for LGBTQI rights in the courts and LGBTQI candidates winning in political campaigns. Still, transgender people, particularly transgender women of color, frequently have their lives cut short by violent means.

I did not know any of the transgender women who lost their lives personally, and yet, on some level, I feel like I know them intimately. I know that they were just trying to live their lives by whatever means possible. Some of them worked in the “sex work” field, a career that they no doubt never dreamed of, but the reality of being a minority in a world where jobs are hard to come by made doing this work a necessity just to survive. Some of them were killed for no other crime than being transgender, wanting to be loved by someone and to have a normal life. Of course, transgender women are not the only ones to experience violent deaths; all we have to do is look at the true story behind the film “Boys Don’t Cry.”

There is a whole other population of trans individuals lost that is not so easy to tally. These are the trans folks for whom transitioning to the other gender was either out of reach or seemingly impossible to achieve; many decide that life in their birth sex and gender are too much to bear and take their own lives. Cis-gendered or non-transgender people may not be able to understand or appreciate this incredible sense of desperation, but many trans people know it. On a personal note, I experienced this as well, but I am lucky enough to still be here to tell my tale.

I had the experience of watching the Netflix documentary “Disclosure” last night. While I was uplifted by the optimistic ending, I nearly had to stop watching due to the negative depictions of trans folk, particularly transwomen, in film and in the media over the years. I am glad that I never saw many of the films referenced, although I had seen some. I know now that there are many films that, as a happy, content, transwoman, I never want to see as I find them too disturbing to watch.

I feel blessed to have had a generally positive, but far from perfect, experience as a transgender woman. I have been able to find employment. I live in a part of the country where I generally feel safe from potential violence. I have an amazing community of supportive people who have my back every day. Further, I work in a job where I coach and counsel members of the LGBTQI community, a community that has taught me a great deal about living.

So, on Nov. 20, I will be doing the same thing I do every day: thinking of those trans people less fortunate than me and praying for things to change for my beloved community.

Mariel Addis is a native of Florence.

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