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Today is Saturday, November 24, 2007


A Day of Counted Sorrows

Remembering Our Dead

Those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it. --George Santayana

I have a question for you all. What do Ze Galhinha, Chandini (aka Nazir), Tamyra Michaels, Georgina Matehaere, Roberta Nizah Morris, Timothy Cinnamon Broadus, Nikki Nicholas, Danisha Victoria Principal Williams, Ronald Andrew Brown, Merlinka (Vjeran Miladinovic), Mimi Young, Jessica Mercado, Hendricks Thomas (aka Tanesha Starr), Shelby Tracy Tom, Michael Charles Hurd, Cinnamon (Kendrick) Perry, Nireah Johnson, Selena Alvarez, Bella Evangelista, Emonie Kiera Spaulding and Cassandra Tula Do all have in common? Answer: They, along with one other unidentified person, are the twenty-two transgendered people that have been murdered from November 20, 2002 until now.
I know what you are wondering. What is the significance of November 20th? November 20th is the Transgender Day of Remembrance and 2003 will be its 5th annual observance. The Remembering Our Dead project that sponsors the Day of Remembrance tracks and documents the murder of transgendered people all over the world.
The Transgender Day of Remembrance was set aside to memorialize those who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. The event is held in November to honor Rita Hester, whose murder on November 28th, 1998 kicked off the Remembering Our Dead web project and a San Francisco candlelight vigil in 1999. Rita Hesters murder, like most anti-transgender murder cases, has yet to be solved.
Although not every person represented during the Day of Remembrance self-identified as transgendered, that is, as a transsexual, crossdresser, or otherwise gender-variant, each was a victim of violence based on bias against transgendered people.
The Transgender Day of Remembrance serves several purposes. It raises public awareness of hate crimes against transgendered people, an action that current media does not perform. Day of Remembrance publicly mourns and honors the lives of our brothers and sisters who might otherwise be forgotten. Through the vigil, we express love and respect for our people in the face of national indifference and hatred. Day of Remembrance reminds non-transgendered people that we are their sons, daughters, parents, friends and lovers. Day of Remembrance gives our allies a chance to step forward with us and stand in vigil, memorializing those of us who have died by anti-transgender violence.
Remembering Our Dead and The Transgender Day of Remembrance are maintained mainly by Gwendolyn Ann Smith through the web site at www.gender.org/remember/day. The site also contains a list of all the current years transgendered fallen and the circumstances surrounding their deaths. A complete list of all those that have been lost going back thirteen years can also be seen at the site.
A total of 264 people (207 Domestic, 57 International) have been murdered as of 06/30/03 according to the Remembering Our Dead records. The average number of deaths has been maintaining itself at about 12 per year. That is one a month, folks. The deadliest year for transgendered people was 2002 with 25 killings, doubling the average. 2003 has a firm hold of second place with a current body count of 22. The top five rounds out with: 2000 - 19, 2001 - 19, 1997 - 18.
You may ask yourself why the police do not pay more attention to these specific types of crimes when they occur in such overwhelming numbers. It is simple. Because the police contribute to the body count. It is widely observed that transgendered people fear the police as much as they fear any attacker. There are four deaths on the books that were perpetrated by police officers. This includes Logan Smith who died of septic shock due to a punctured bladder. Police officers kicked Logan in his abdomen and sprayed him with pepper gas after stopping him for failure to signal a right turn and failure to display a license plate. Smith had offered no physical resistance. He died later that evening.
Other emergency services do not have much better records when dealing with transgendered victims. Paramedics and emergency room workers also drop the ball. Jessica (Gerardo) Castillo suffered a blunt trauma to the head. She received inadequate care from D.C. general hospital, and from the medical team on scene of the accident. Georgina Matehaere managed to get herself to a hospital after being beaten with a baseball bat, but was promptly discharged. She was later returned to the same hospital via ambulance where she died of her injuries. Her last words before she lost consciousness were a plea for peace.
The federal institutions fall short in their responsibilities to protect people as well. Two civilians and one serviceman have been killed by military personnel; one by a military policeman. Pvt. Barry L. Winchell was beaten to death, allegedly by Pvt. Calvin N. Glover, because he was in a relationship with a transgendered woman. He was not transgendered himself.
With such atrocities happening at the hands of the very people we enlist to protect us, the first instinct is to look for refuge at home with our families. No such luck. Giuseppe Mandanici was killed by a hit man hired by his father for $700. Richard Goldman was shot and killed by his father, retired state judge Milton Goldman. Diane Delia was shot four times in the head by her husband. An unnamed infant with ambiguous genitalia was killed by a blunt force trauma to the head, as well as strangulation, allegedly by the child's mother, Aruna Kavili. Jamie (James) Jackson was beaten to death in her own doorway. Four of this years victims were killed in their own homes. So, no. Home is not any safer than the streets.
Some of these crimes are so unspeakably brutal that it boggles the mind that the people who commit them are rarely, if ever, caught. Sometimes they are never even looked for. Dianne Aubert was stabbed in the back 121 times. Tracy Thompson was stabbed 120 times. Raimundo Rocha Alves had 42 stab wounds to the head! Kevin Freemans skull was split nearly in half. One of the most horrific murders was Barretta Williams. She was shot 16 times, pistol whipped, tied up with speaker wire, and gagged with a sock taped into her mouth. She was then tortured for several hours, beaten to death, and beheaded by Kenneth Poole and Ralph David Frantzreb.
Activist Kristi Independence Kelly died in a plane crash. Suspicion is that she had probably been assassinated by "Dannites" (the covert paramilitary wing of the Mormon Church).
A great majority of attacks on transgendered people are sexually motivated. Homophobia and sexual insecurity drives some assailants to extremes. Larry Venzant, William Battles, Jean (Woodrow) Powell and Randy Loomis were all sexually mutilated before their deaths. Randy was left to die on the street. He never received any medical attention. Barbara (William) Brodie, Steven Wilson and Michelle Lynne O'Hara were all raped and brutalized before they died. Michelle was so traumatized by the rape that she committed suicide shortly afterwards.
In the face of such violence, I have been asked many times why I have chosen to make my transition in Idaho, a state with a notorious past reputation of harboring groups that promote intolerance and providing a haven for agents of hate driven violence. I must admit, I do feel rather isolated and exposed at times. Having the little hairs stand up on the back of my neck because of some nameless fear is not unknown to me. Seriously, I do not carry a gun because I am perfectly at ease.
But all things told and considered, Idaho statistically qualifies as one of the safer places for people like me despite the lack of laws to protect us. Of the 207 people who were murdered in 89 cities through 33 states across the United States of America since 1990, not one death has happened in Idaho. There is some morbid comfort in that.
Maybe that is because we number so few in Idaho that we are not perceived to be quite so threatening. Maybe we hold a niche of an oddity to be gawked at but not touched. Maybe no one believes we really exist here. Or maybe it is just that nobody has gotten around to doing an Idaho transgender in yet. Who knows?
What I do know is that these statistics are unacceptable. A transgendered person has been murdered every two weeks for the past two years. Far too few of the killers have been found and brought to justice. Only five of the last years twenty-two victims have had the killers identified.
I want to live. That is the whole point to what I have done to my body. It is the reason I have risked my familys unity. It is the underlying current to why I have caused so much disruption to all the lives that are connected to me. I am suppose to have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Will my killer continue to enjoy his life, liberty and happiness after I am dead? If my battered body turns up in a downtown alley, will my family have any hope at all to see justice done? The statistics say, No.
Blessed Be.

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