Monday, November 22, 2010

TDOR Controversy

This last Saturday was the Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day that (surprisingly) seems to attract a fair bit of controversy (well, at least it seemed that way to me, casually reading other blogs). Last year there was the rift between communities as many gay groups gathered on November 20th to mourn the death of Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado, a young man from Puerto Rico who was killed, it seems, because his killer was enraged to find out Jorge was not a woman. While it has been asserted many times that Jorge was not trans-identified, his murder nonetheless is a story the trans community is all too familiar with; this murder was an act of anti-trans violence. The problem last year was that some gay communities held the memorial for Jorge—and only Jorge—on the same day trans communities were not only morning the same death, but over 160 others. Whether it was simple ignorance of TDOR or an unwillingness to join together, the rift between the gay and trans communities marked 2009.

In 2010 I have read a lot about TDOR being used as an excuse to throw a party, or as a means of exploiting fundraising dollars off a memorial. I’ve read several folks commenting that the day is too depressing, and most recently I’ve seen some interesting debate over whether or not suicides should be added to the list (with similar, but not identical, discussions centered around the inclusion of past trans men’s names to “fill out” the disparity in diversity of those remembered in any given year). And some of these controversies could easily spur on some interesting introspection for our community in the future (and some of these are just asinine), but there is one controversy I haven’t seen mentioned a lot lately:

When I do my own, private memorial for those we lost each year, I pull up the transgenderdor.org website, read through the names and the details (cause of death, location, etc.), and I light a candle. I try to spend a least a minute or so on each name, quietly reflecting on someone I’ve never met yet with whom I feel a profound connection. This year I was surprised to see only 30 names on the list. I don’t know what’s worse, that I have actually become this cynical or that this is the reality of our situation, but I knew that this could not be all. 30 is far too few—there had to be others. I could feel it, and that realization that I was so sure there were many other names missing made my stomach turn. But as the days went on, I didn’t hear anyone say anything about there being more than 30. At the TDOR event I attended, the 30 names were read. No more, no less.

It wasn’t until today that I found out that there were 179 deaths reported this past year. That’s one death every 2 days, and the almost all of these deaths are trans women of color. Take a pause now and reflect on that.
I am devastated that there are any names on the list at all, and just seeing the number there is a heavy kick in the stomach. What I don’t understand is why transgenderdor.org didn’t report all the names? This is incredibly problematic not only because it (especially juxtaposed to last year’s statistics) misrepresents the trend of violence against trans people—suggesting the problem is getting better instead of getting worse—but it is also intensely disrespectful to the remaining 149 people and their families, and it is a gross disservice to our community.

Visit the Trans Murder Monitoring Project's website to view the full list of names for the 2010 TDOR.

2 comments:

Kathryn Martin said...

Our local TDOR event read all 179 names in remembrance. It must have simply been an idiosyncrasy your event organizers.

Amy K. said...

I noticed that too! http://www.transgenderdor.org only has 30 names. I found other news (about the deaths being 179) at http://www.transrespect-transphobia.org/en_US/tvt-project/tmm-results/tdor2010.htm

I wasn't aware that they had the actual names on that site as well, otherwise I would have included them in my annual post about TDOR. :(