TransGriot Note: This is the text of the keynote speech I'm giving at this minute for the 2009 LITDOR Service in Centerpoint, LI, NY
Moments before taking the podium at the church, was advised we'd added two more names to be memorialized, so I revised what I originally posted to reflect we were remembering 122 people.
Giving honor to God, my gracious LITDOR hosts, my brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, members of this church congregation, my transgender brothers and sisters, friends and allies of our community.
I have been given the honor of delivering the keynote speech for the 2009 Long Island Transgender Day of Remembrance Service.
I thank you for the opportunity of joining the long list of prominent people in our community who have preceded me in having the chance to do so. Many of those people are ones who I admire, and it’s nice to be included in such lofty company.
I thank Eileen and all the wonderful LITDOR people that I’ve had the pleasure to meet today for extending the invitation. I thank you for doing the hard behind the scenes work, the phone conversations and numerous e-mail exchanges to ensure I would be standing proudly before you today on this not so happy occasion.
One of the things I thought about in the days leading up to my speech tonight and also pondered on the plane ride here is that this event is taking place on the anniversary of another senseless death, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
In his televised June 11, 1963 speech on civil rights, he used the words ‘a moral crisis’ to describe what was going on in the nation at the time..
Well, tonight, we are here to call attention to another moral crisis, the senseless loss of people to anti-transgender violence. Tonight we are going to talk about the 120 people that are no longer here on Planet Earth.
One of those people on the tragically long list we are memorializing this year is Lateisha Green, who was killed in Syracuse, NY six days before TDOR 2008.
We’re going to talk about the 122 senseless deaths that have not only taken away a brother, sister, aunt, uncle, son, daughter or cousin, it has deprived our various communities around the world of the contributions our lost brothers and sisters could have made to those societies.
We know in the trans community we have some amazing people in it who have as we say in my community the skills to pay the bills, assuming we’re ever allowed to show that we can do so.
Well never know if the people that were killed would have gone on to become leading educators, made that scientific breakthrough that advances life for all humanity, created art, become prominent social and political leaders in our various nations, or simply become parents raising a family
We'll never know that because they have been violently taken away from us.
It also causes us to say to ourselves, “there but for the grace of God go I’
I know the question many of us are asking ourselves tonight and have been since we started this ongoing gender journey is. ‘Why?’
Why are people so resistant to us simply living our lives or feel so threatened by the existence of transgender people that they have the misguided belief that they can kill us?
Maybe it’s because the religious leaders who are supposed to help us sort out these moral crises are instead exacerbating the problem.
When you have the leader of the Roman Catholic Church make a Christmas Eve speech in which he states, “humanity needed to listen to the "language of creation" to understand the intended roles of man and woman and behavior beyond traditional heterosexual relations was a "destruction of God’s work"., it’s not surprising that there was an alarming spike of transgender deaths in Roman Catholic dominated countries such as Brazil, Honduras, and Guatemala.
When you have a moderate Islamic cleric such as Malaysia’s Mohamad Asri Zainul Abidin say in an interview transsexuals should be fined or jailed if counseling proves ineffective at deterring them from transition, then follow up that misguided comment up by stating, "We must try to reform them and give them advice. We must not allow them to stray. Imagine if this world were filled with transsexuals -- what would happen to the human race?"
It’s not surprising that the result of such comments by Islamic clerics who share Abidin’s opinions is persecution and killing of transpeople in Muslim countries.
When you have fundamentalist Christians, our modern day Pharisees and Sagicees repeatedly violate the Ninth Commandment of ‘bearing false witness against thy neighbor’ because of their personal transphobia or as part of promoting their regressive right wing political agenda, is it any wonder that we have repeated violations of the Sixth Commandment in regards to transgender people?
In case you’re wondering what the Sixth Commandment states, it’s ‘thou shalt not kill.’
It is the words of these so-called religious leaders that are fueling the dastardly deeds of the people who are killing our trans brothers and sisters.
Well, time to school all the faith based haters out there. Increasing reams of medical evidence and recorded history point to the inescapable conclusion that transpeople are part of the divinely inspired mosaic of human life. The sooner y’all get that through your thick heads, the better life will be for all of us on Planet Earth.
Why is this still happening to transgender people? As I know all too well from my people’s tortured history in the Americas and across the African Diaspora, when you ‘other’ a people, promote lies and half truths about them, refuse to understand and learn about their issues, and deny their humanity, the end result is they begin to die at the hands of the people who are actively denying their humanity.
The funny thing about that is as the Forces of Intolerance continue their nefarious mission to dehumanize transpeople, we fight back even harder to ensure that we call them on it when it happens.
Now that I’ve given you the abridged version to the ‘why’ this is happening, it’s time to move on to our solemn task for this evening.
What we are gathered in this church for this evening is to remember the 122 people who lives have sadly been extinguished by anti-transgender violence.
122 people. It’s triple the number we memorialized in 2008.
122 people having candles being lit for them during this service to symbolize each one of the lives that was taken away from us far too soon.
122 people too many
For some of the people we memorialize, we won’t even get the opportunity of reading their names because they were either killed and dumped on the side of a road or for security reason the name of the deceased was not released in order to protect their living relatives.
122 people who died simply because somebody hated them for who they were.
I have to point out that one of the 122 people on this list that we memorialize this year is a cisgender man by the name of Michael Hunt.
He died for the same reason Pfc. Barry Winchell did ten years ago, because his killer didn’t like the fact he fell in love with a transwoman.
Michael Hunt fell in love with Taysia Elzy, and for that he paid with his life.
Dwight DeLee didn’t like the fact that Lateisha Green was daring to live her life in upstate New York openly and unabashedly proud about who she was. A gunshot outside a Syracuse house party fired from a rifle wielded by DeLee wounded her brother Mark and ended her life.
I’m a fan of the science fiction series Battlestar Galactica and I recently viewed the movie entitled The Plan. In one scene Number Six says to Brother Cavil, in regards to the genocidal nuclear sneak attack launched by him and his fellow humanoid robots that destroyed the Twelve Colonies of Mankind and led them on a quest to find a new home on Earth, ‘you can’t declare war on love.’
That’s what I take away from these TDOR 2009 memorial services that took place all around the world on November 20 and here this evening.
We are saying to those who have declared war on transpeople, ‘You cannot declare war on love.’
There is the love our allies have shown for us this week. The love we have shown for each other and we mourn our losses and resolve to work even harder to make the TDOR obsolete. The love that we show for our fallen brothers and sisters.
Love is the most powerful force in the universe, and it endures long after the outer shell of a body that houses our spirits becomes dust that goes back to the earth.
Love is the advantage we have over the Forces of Intolerance and all the other nattering nabobs of negativity who demonize and deny our shared humanity.
It is the love we have for our fallen transbrothers and transsisters that compels us to gather in this church today to mourn their losses, and ensure that we the living never forget the people who died.