October is waning. November is before us. This means Trans Day of Remembrance (TDOR) will soon be upon us, nestled within the larger week of Trans Awareness.
It strikes me as fitting that we gather to remember our fallen as the days grow colder, shorter, the trees lose their leafy clothes and stand, stick-like, calling our attention to the natural cycles of life: generation, death, decay, and regeneration. This stark reminder is ever more stunning as smatterings of evergreens, flourishing among the bare trees, call us to remember the many ways life perseveres, even as everything seems barren and unaccommodating. The evergreens stand as testaments: even the brown, boney trees are still alive and will burst forth, again, vibrant and verdant.
Trans people are like the evergreens.
Strong. Resilient. Enlivened, bold, persisting testaments to the miraculous is-ness of being, of selfhood, made real in fleshy essence, skin and bone: this, alone, a living sacred resistance to the tyranny of bigotry and intolerance.
When we gather, we gather because trans-hatred is killing trans people.
We gather because we are a misunderstood, persecuted people in exile from the fullness of life by systemic marginalization and oppression. Remembering, communally, calls us to be community: to be mindful of the importance of caring for each other and honoring the value of our lives.
If you’re thinking about TDOR, here are some things to consider.
1. Nothing About Us Without Us
In a desire to be good, helpful allies, it’s tempting to decide what to do and plan an event for us. It is profoundly important for such events to be trans-initiated, trans-led, and trans-voiced. Allies can make space for us, but allies cannot speak for us.
More, we are not all the same. Every trans person is different; different people have different perspectives. Different communities want and need different things. Rather than planning for us, consider making your space available to the trans community, spread the word, and work with them to meet their needs. Or consider opening your sanctuary on the day of Remembrance for folks who might want to come in and light candles, pray, or simply sit in a safe and welcoming silence.
Whatever you do, think about ways to step back and let the trans community lead.
2. Remembrance is for the living.
For ourselves, for each other, for hope of a day when none of us is lost to violence, we remember our fallen and hold space for our grief. Setting aside time to grieve, to give and receive comfort, to step out of isolation and cultivate nurturing space, together, makes us stronger. It sustains us in our walk through an unfriendly world. We gather and speak their names because we need to remember. We, the living, gather in hope for a radically different, more loving, and accepting world.
We gather for strength, knowing the coming of a different world depends on our ability to keep showing up, keep living our lives, and keep holding among us a deep resistance to being erased. We, the still-here, need to affirm our commitment to the life-giving, world-changing witness of daring to be and become authentically who we are.
Whatever you do, remember it is for the living: the still-here, still-living trans persons are the reasons for remembrance and for celebration.
3. Tend the living.
Not only is remembrance for the living, it calls us to tend the living.
Holding a TDOR service of some kind, once a year, is not a substitute for caring for and tending the living. In fact, the reality is this: mourning our dead without tending our living is an insult to us and to our fallen.
If remembrance of those taken from us–violently, too soon–does not call us to turn mindfully to the living, we have failed to grasp the point…and we have failed those who are still here.
We, as trans people, need practical support for the things that make a daily life. We need jobs. We need housing. We need safe places and spaces. We need access to health care. We need safe transportation. Some of us need clothes and food for the day, the week, the month. We need access to the means of a healthy life. We need community. We need rest and renewal. We need what human beings need to be human beings.
Tending the living is about doing our part to create access to the means of a life.
Ultimately, TDOR is about mournfully attending to the desecration of life; the erasure of personhood; the violent disregard for diversity of bodied souls. But it is also about resilience and the persistence of selfhood, thriving and becoming in a cold landscape, seemingly bereft of nurture and sustenance. It is a call to deep remembering:
Trans people are like evergreens: persistent testaments to the miraculous is-ness of being made real in fleshy essence, skin and bone: this, alone, a living sacred resilience. We need most to be seen, heard, and tended to–not only in the bare days of November, but in the days and months that follow.
Liam Hooper lives in the deep south with his wife, Diana, a freelance publishing professional who keeps his calendar in line, and their teenage son, who keeps them on their toes.