Friday, November 20 this year was one of those cosmic days when forces in my life and in my mind merged into a dynamic and ever-evolving and connected psychic dance.
Early in the day, my cousin Nancy sent out a message announcing the publication of her young 26-year-old son, N. T. Laemmle’s first novel, The View Upon the Mountain: a coming-of-age tale of a young boy’s journey of quest, achievement, love, and loss.
I hurried to order an Amazon e-copy to read my brilliant young cousin’s crisp prose replete with archetypal images and characters reflecting common and shared human themes across time and space.
As I read the Introduction, my friend David emailed me his discovery that he and Joe Biden shared the same birthday, November 20, though they were born in different years. At this point, as David is an avid reader, I immediately reentered Amazon and gifted him with my cousin’s new book.
And no, I do not believe in coincidences since I view in most instances, universal influences merge for some often-inexplicable reason. Though Joe Biden celebrates the day of his birth on November 20 each year, that date we also set aside to commemorate Transgender Day of Remembrance to honor and remember all our beautiful transgender and gender-nonconforming community members who we lost to individual and societal hatred and violence.
During this incredible unprecedented year of 2020, as we have reached a massive loss of over one-quarter million souls to a novel virus under a national government unwilling and unable to mobilize a defensive strategy, and as millions of our residents remain obstinate and hostile in their unwillingness to take preventative actions, a record 37 transgender and gender-nonconforming people were ruthlessly murdered this year.
No, they were not ruthlessly murdered in the passive construction of that sentence. Rather people ruthlessly murdered 37 brave souls for having the courage and integrity to live their lives with authenticity.
They “viewed upon a mountain” of societal constraints and restrictions; a society that handed them mandatory gender scripts based on the gender they were assigned at birth. They challenged the enforced mandatory goal of performing (expressing) their genders in ways that were never their own, and always against what they felt as honest to them.
And no, the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris rises as no mere coincidence as we have reached yet another record of murdered transgender and gender-conforming people, the majority who are people of color.
The Human Rights Campaign has identified 202 reported cases of fatal violence against transgender and gender nonconforming people since 2013, with black transgender woman comprising 66% of these deaths. This year again the majority were black, Latinx, or both.
Many issues and forms of power and control converge in the murders: patriarchal constraints of so-called gendernormativity, white supremacy, and the specific though overlapping forms of oppression including racism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, classism, xenophobia, ableism, and others.
Over the past four years, Donald Trump exploited divisions and tensions within the United States and internationally.
While running for the U.S. presidency, Donald Trump said at campaign rallies that he would be a different kind of Republican because he would defend and strengthen LGBT protections. At the 2016 Republican convention, he posed with a rainbow flag with the words “LGBTs for Trump” scrawled across the yellow stripe.
This should have been a clue in foretelling his cowardice and deception once he took over the reins of power because since moving into the White House, the Trump administration has declared total nuclear war on the transgender community.
When the Trump administration promoted its 2017 “American Heroes Week,” the alleged Commander-in-Chief let it be known in a torrential three-tweet series that he did not include trans people in the category of “American Heroes,” especially those currently and previously serving in the U.S. military.
“After consideration with my Generals and military experts,” he Tweeted, “please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow…… ….Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming….. ….victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you.”
On Friday, April 12, 2019, this clearly discriminatory and unnecessary policy took effect.
Trump’s official policy-by-tweet contradicts Department of Defense regulations released June 30, 2016 under Defense Secretary Ash Carter permitting trans people to join and openly serve their country.
At that time, the United States added its name to an ever-increasing list of approximately 20 other nations welcoming trans people into their military ranks, with the Netherlands as the first as far back as 1973. A sampling of others includes Australia, Bolivia, Canada, Germany, Israel, New Zealand, and Spain.
A Rand Study fully debunks the Lier-in-Chief’s assertion of some sort of burdensome “tremendous medical costs” expended on trans servicemembers. Of the Pentagon’s annual military health care budget of $6.28 billion, an estimated relatively minuscule $2.4 – 8.4 million accounts for transition-related health care costs.
In addition, Rand found that merely 25 – 130 active-component trans military personnel have deployment restrictions due to transition-related medical treatments. In comparison, 50,000 active-duty soldiers in one single branch, the Army, cannot deploy for medical and other reasons.
Since Trump’s inauguration, he abolished an Obama-era executive order permitting transgender students to use school facilities most closely aligning with their gender identities, and the White House website has removed reference to LGBT issues and policies from the previous administration.
Another of Trump’s assaults on the trans community came in the form of a yet another rollback of protections initiated by his immediate predecessor.
The Obama administration issued a policy directive manual enumerating the rights and responsibilities of transgender people in prison related to several areas including housing, strip searches, and medical care. The directive advised respect and protection of transgender inmates and, on a case-by-case basis, the possibility of residence in prisons matching their gender identities.
Since the brutal more-than-alleged murder by Minneapolis police officers of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, and the worldwide demonstrations demanding an end to police practices and policies inordinately crushing the necks of people of color, we seem to have entered a watershed moment bringing us to a point of possibly owning up to our collective legacy of racism in the United States and elsewhere.
Trump, however, vilified demonstrators and sent federal agents in camouflage gear and unmarked vehicles to arrest and detain Black Lives Matters demonstrates who are largely peaceful in the streets of Portland, Oregon.
The Trump Administration never contacted local officials in advance before the agents invaded their city. Most local officials including Oregon’s Governor, Portland’s Mayor, and U.S. Senators and Representatives serving the area have all called for the Administration to evacuate and allow protestors their constitutional rights of assembly.
In an Oval Office press conference with reporters, Trump asserted that federal agents in Portland had “done a fantastic job. He justified his action by arguing that the city was “totally out of control” and blamed the governor and other state officials for not asking for his help.
Members of the trans community often suffer the consequences of other truth tellers of the past. Nearly every two – three days, a person, like those highlighted throughout this commentary, are killed by people somewhere in the world for expressing gender diversity. The overwhelming majority of murders are of trans women of color.
Under direct and affirming leadership from the top, Biden and Harris have an opportunity to join with state and community activists to reset the social divisions that have resulted in death and destruction of so many lives by an internal biological virus and by a pandemic of viral hatred and violence that have needlessly taken so many.
And we need to continually Say Their Names: Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming People Murdered in 2020 up to November 20.
May their memories be a blessing:
Dustin Parker, McAlester, Oklahoma, 25
Neulisa Luciano Ruiz, Toa Baja, Puerto Rico,
Yampi Méndez Arocho, Moca, Puerto Rico, 19
Monika Diamond, Charlotte, North Carolina, 34
Lexi Harlem, New York, 33
Johanna Metzger, Baltimore, Maryland
Serena Angelique Velázquez Ramos, Puerto Rico, 32
Layla Pelaez Sánchez, Puerto Rico, 21
Penélope Díaz Ramírez, Puerto Rico, 31
Nina Pop, Sikeston, Missouri, 28
Helle Jae O’Regan, San Antonio, Texas, 20
John Scott DeVore a.k.a. Scottlynn Kelly DeVore, Augusta, Georgia, 51
Jayne Thompson, Mesa County, Colorado, 33
Tony McDade, Tallahassee, Florida, 38
Selena Reyes-Hernandez, Chicago, Illinois, 37
Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Riah Milton, Liberty Township, Ohio, 25
Brian “Egypt” Powers, Akron, Ohio, 43
Brayla Stone, Little Rock, Arkansas, 17
Merci Mack, Dallas, Texas, 22
Shaki Peters, Amite City, Louisiana, 32
Bree Black, Pompano Beach, Florida, 27
Summer Taylor, Seattle, Washington
Marilyn Cazares, Brawley, California
Dior H Ova, Bronx, New York, 32
Queasha D Hardy, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 22
Aja Raquell Rhone-Spears, Portland, Oregon, 32
Kee Sam, Lafayette, Louisiana, 24
Lea Rayshon Daye, Cleveland, Ohio, 28
Aerrion Burnett, Independence, Missouri, 37
Mia Green, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 29
Michelle Michellyn Ramos Vargas, San Germán, Puerto Rico, mid-30s
Felycya Harris, Augusta, Georgia, 33
Brooklyn Deshuna, Shreveport, Louisiana, 20
Sara Blackwood, Indianapolis, Indiana, 39
Angel Unique, Memphis, Tennessee, 25
Yunieski Carey Harerra, Miami, Florida, 39
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