Our Statement for the 2009 Trans Day of Remembrance

Please distribute this widely! Available online at http://www.dctranscoalition.org.


For Immediate Release
November 8, 2009
Contact: Sadie Ryanne Baker
(202) 557-1951

The DC Trans Coalition Commemorates the 2009 Trans Day of Remembrance

Washington, DC – In recent months, a lot of us in DC were deeply affected by the murder of Ty’lia Mack, a trans woman who was stabbed along with a friend only a few blocks from the offices of Transgender Health Empowerment, Inc. Many of us at the DC Trans Coalition are survivors of violence ourselves, or are close to someone who is. We now approach the annual Trans Day of Remembrance, a time of emotional ceremonies when we come together with our friends and allies to remember the hundreds of fallen transsexual, transgender and gender nonconforming people all across the world.

Our communities are faced with violence all of the time – and it is not only the kind that comes from bigots who follow us on the street. It can also come from the threat of homelessness and job loss, disproportional rates of poverty and HIV infection, bullying in schools, or denial of access to health care or public facilities like restrooms.

To help curb this violence, sometimes we rely on police and laws like the Human Rights Act here in DC. Calling the police can be important if we are in the kinds of unsafe situations that are all-too-familiar for many trans/GNC people. However, involving the police is not a viable option for many people in our communities. A lack of consistent identity documents, fear of prejudiced and hateful officers and other factors can create complicated problems when interacting with police. Thankfully, in DC we have fought for policies to reduce these problems. We strongly encourage anyone who lives in, works in or visits DC to become familiar with these rights and what to do if they are violated. But even with these strong protections on paper, police harassment on the street and the threat of being arrested and sent to jail remains a constant problem for many.

As the city cuts the budgets of social service programs like THE that help the most vulnerable, and the police enact “tough on crime” policies like the Prostitution Free Zones that result in massive arrest rates for those of us who live in the most precarious economic situations, we need to look at the institutional problems that create and fuel all this violence against us. Trans/GNC people are not only made targets of violence because of blatantly transphobic prejudice. For example, we must also deal with racism, the criminalization of sex workers and the collapsing economy. We need to address all of the complex reasons why so many people in our communities are poor, on the street or constantly going through the jail in order to understand why so many trans/GNC people end up victims or survivors of violence.

Recently, the Obama Administration signed the trans-inclusive Matthew Shepard/James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law. Within DCTC, we have a diverse range of opinions on hate crimes legislation, but we agree that it is important to acknowledge the limitations and flaws of the criminal justice system as it is. As folks who have worked hard to reduce problems for trans/GNC people with police and in jail, we know jails themselves can be dangerous places for trans/GNC people. They also fuel vast racial and class inequalities. (In DC,for example, only 2% of our jail population is white.) So while it is exciting to see elected officials taking action to address the very real problem of hate violence targeting trans/GNC people, we hope that more people begin to have productive dialogs and think critically about strategies to address and prevent violence within our communities.

Relying on harsher penalties for bias-motivated crimes alone cannot keep us safe. While recognizing that sometimes we need to use them for our safety, we need to think about ways to decrease our societies’ over-reliance on police and jails as the only solution. This over-reliance on incarceration disproportionately harms marginalized communities like trans/GNC people. Even as DCTC works hard to make sure we enforce policies that will keep people as safe as possible on the streets and in jail, we also want to find solutions that keep people from going to jail in the first place. We hope that someday we might live in a world where we are put in unsafe situations less to begin with. That’s why, for example, we also have fought to make sure that trans/GNC folks can obtain legal documents that reflect the way we live, to make sure homeless shelters place trans/GNC people where they want to be, or to keep funding for vital social services.

The week leading up to TDOR has been declared the Trans Week of Awareness by some of our allies in Massachusetts. While we need to commemorate our dead, remembering the fallen is not enough to bring change toward a safer world. We also need to focus on preventing violence by educating those around us, to make them aware that trans/GNC people are their friends, partners, family, co-workers and community members and that we deserve rights and protection just like they do. We at DCTC join with others to mark this Week of Awareness, and ask everyone to spread the word about the need to end transphobia and work toward gender self-determination.

If you are in DC, we invite you to join Transgender Health Empowerment and other groups at 6:30 PM on Friday, November the 20th at the Metropolitan Community Church (474 Ridge St. NW) for the annual Day of Remembrance ceremony. This year, let’s mourn our losses, but also celebrate our victories, our shared commitment to social justice and to building a world in which all forms of violence are things of the past. In the meantime, we would like to commemorate the strong communities we’ve built to support one another through hard times, and we invite all who are interested to join us in organizing for a safer DC, or wherever you find yourselves this Day of Remembrance.

The DC Trans Coalition (DCTC) is a grassroots community-based organization dedicated to fighting for the human rights, dignity and equal access for transgender, transsexual and gender non-conforming people in the District of Columbia.

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