Commentary

Killers aren’t the only ones to blame for the murders of transgender people

Killers aren’t the only ones to blame for the murders of transgender people
Mesha Caldwell (left) and Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow were the first two reported murders of transgender people in 2017. Photo: Composite via Facebook

I feel anger, outrage, and depression. We had barely turned the corner into 2017 when we received reports of two trans women of color whom people violently and viciously murdered.

Mesha Caldwell, 41, 1/4/2017; Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow, 28, 1/6/2017

Though 2016 saw the highest number of trans people reported killed in the United States with at least 24 known instances — the vast majority being trans women of color — at the current rate, 2017 portends to be even worse.

Monica Loera, 1/22/2016; Jasmine Sierra, 1/22/2016

History is replete with groups and individuals facing colossal odds for simply expressing their truth, and for that, they were often forced to pay the ultimate price. Governments and individuals have devised ways of silencing opposition to maintain and extend its control and domination. They commit genocide upon the true human liberators, the prophets, the visionaries who advocate for a just and free world.

Kayden Clarke, 24, 2/4/2016; Veronica Banks Cano, 2/19/2016

Antonio Gramsci wrote about the concept of “cultural hegemony,” which describes the ways in which the dominant group successfully disseminates its social definitions of reality and its social visions in a manner accepted as “common sense,” as “normal,” and as “universal.” This hegemony maintains and expands the marginalization of groups with differing identities or opposing views.

Maya Young, 24, 2/20/2016

Trans people have exposed the truth regarding this fabrication we call “gender roles” and the rigidity of gender identity as social constructions, which our society ascribes to each of us as it assigns us a sex at birth. With the label “female” assigned at birth, society forces us to follow its “feminine script,” and with “male” assigned at birth, we are handed our “masculine” script to act out. 

Demarkis Stansberry, 30, 2/27/2016

As scripts are given to actors in a play, rigid notions of gender identities and the gender role scripts automatically assigned to them also were written long before any of us entered the stage of life. In fact, they have little connection with our natures, beliefs, interests, and values. 

Kedarie/Kandicee Johnson, 16, 3/2/2016 

According to social theorist Judith Butler:

“The act that one does, the act that one performs, is, in a sense, an act that has been going on before one arrived on the scene. Hence, gender is an act, which has been rehearsed, much as a script survives the particular actors who make use of it, but which requires individual actors in order to be actualized and reproduced as reality once again.” 

Quartney Davia Dawsonn-Yochum, 32, 3/23/2016

If we challenge the director by refusing to follow our lines, and when we tell the truth about this human lie about the rigidity of gender, the director (society) doles out harsh, often fatal punishments.

Members of the trans community often suffer the consequences of other truth tellers of the past. Nearly every two days, a person is killed somewhere in the world for expressing gender nonconformity. The vast majority of murders are of trans women of color.

Shante Isaac, 34, 4/10/2016

Murderers of trans people react in extreme and fanatical ways at the direction of the larger coercive societal battalions bent on destroying all signs of gender transgression in young and old alike in the maintenance of these gender scripts. 

Keyonna Blakeney, 22, 4/16/2016

Most of us function as conscious or unconscious co-directors in this drama each time we enforce gender-role conformity onto others, and each time we relinquish our critical consciousness by failing to rewrite or destroy the scripts in ways that operate integrally for us. 

Tyreece “Reccey” Walker, 32, 5/1/2016

Those who bully in society and filtered into the schools often fulfill the social “function” of establishing and reinforcing the socially-constructed scripts handed to them when they entered the performance. This is generated by larger social institutions within our patriarchal culture.

Mercedes Successful, 32, 5/15/2016

We must not and cannot dismiss the murders of trans people as only the actions of a few disturbed and sadistic individuals, for oppression exists on multiple levels in multiple forms. The killers live in a society that subtly and not-so-subtly promotes intolerance, spreads stereotypes, imposes stigmata, and perpetuates violence and the threat of violence. These incidents of murder must be understood as symptoms of larger systemic national hegemonic forms.

Amos Beede, 38, 5/25/2016

 State legislatures in places like North Carolina, and elected officials such as former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, who passed, signed, and promoted anti-trans so-called “bathroom bills” must be held accountable as co-conspirators in the violence against and murder of trans people. 

“Goddess” Diamond, 20, 6/5/2016

Sponsors of these clearly discriminatory laws designed it specifically to ban trans people from using restroom that most closely aligns with their gender. Legislators see the writing on the bathroom walls signaling the establishment of gender inclusive restroom facilities throughout the nation, which have existed in several nations around the world for decades. 

Deeniquia Dodds, 22, 7/13/2016

The Catholic Church and other conservative religious denominations, who issue harsh judgments and condemnations against trans people must also be held accountable as co-conspirators in the violence against and murder of trans people.

Dee Whighem, 25, 7/23/2016

The Vatican hierarchy in 2015 psychologically bashed Alex Salinas, a 21-year-old trans man from Cadiz, Spain, by informing him that it had denied his request to become the godparent of his nephew because being transgender is incongruent with Catholic teaching. According to the Church’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, its doctrine-enforcing agency:

“[Transgender status] reveals in a public way an attitude opposite to the moral imperative of solving the problem of sexual identity according to the truth of one’s own sexuality. Therefore it is evident that this person does not possess the requirement of leading a life according to the faith and in the position of godfather and is therefore unable to be admitted to the position of godfather or godmother.” 

Skye Mockabee, 26, 7/30/2016

Well, the same Catholic Church, at another time, murdered Joan of Arc, the teenager who helped defeat the English in Joan’s native France and became one of the greatest war heroes in French history. Despite this, the Church tried Joan on the charge of heresy in rejecting Church authority in preference to direct inspiration from God, and most importantly, by donning men’s clothing. The Church burned Joan at the stake.

Erykah Tijerina, 36, 8/8/2016

Stigmatized and marginalized groups live with the constant reality of random and unprovoked systematic violence directed against them simply because their social identities. The intent of this xenophobic (fear and hatred of anyone or anything seeming “foreign”) violence is to harm, humiliate, and destroy the “Other” to maintain hierarchical power positions and attendant privileges of the dominant group over minoritized groups.

 

Rae’Lynn Thomas, 28, 8/10/2016

Though our President-elect presents himself as a bully and portends to be a negative role model, the time for bullying has come to an end. We are no longer intimidated. We are standing up, joining together as allies, as upstanders, to put an end to their hatred and violence, to their hegemonic programming to serve their need to control.

Lexxi T. Sironen, 43, 9/6/2016

We will once and for all end the deaths that have taken so many courageous, beautiful, and gentle spirits.

In the final analysis, whenever anyone of us is diminished, we are all demeaned. When anyone or any group remains institutionally and socially stigmatized, marginalized, excluded, or disenfranchised, when violence comes down upon any of us, the possibility for authentic community cannot be realized unless and until we become involved, to challenge, to question, and to act in truly transformational ways. 

T. T., 9/11/2016; Crystal Edmonds, 32, 9/16/2016

Each time we rewrite the scripts to give an honest and true performance of life, each time we work toward lifting the ban against our transcending the gender status quo by continually questioning and challenging standard conceptualizations of gender, then will we begin as individuals and as a society to experience life to the fullest with our humanity and our integrity intact.  

Jazz Alford, 30, 9/23/2016

Trans people have opened the boxes for all of us to ultimately obliterate binary gender oppositions by demonstrating the options upon an enormous gender continuum, one that does not depend upon a sex assigned to us, a sex that is imposed and forced upon us by others. 

Brandi Bledsoe, 32, 10/8/2016; Sierra/Simon Bush, 10/22/2016

Trans visionaries, who are persecuted in their own time, will one day be perceived as the visionary truth tellers they definitely are. Until that day, the harassment, the marginalization, the fear, the violence, and the murders must end. It is up to us all to work toward this daily.

Noonie Norwood, 30, 11/6/2016; India Monroe, 29, 12/21/2016

An essential element of liberty is the freedom to define oneself.

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