Montgomery County MD Transgender Day Of Remembrance 2015 (#MCMDTDOR)
Address by Marcia Simpson
I would like to begin with a little history on tonight's event.
Transgender day of remembrance was started by Gwendolyn Ann Smith to honor the memory of Rita Hester, an African American transgender woman who was murdered in Allston, MA on November 28th 1998. Gwendolyn Smith was struck by the similarities between Rita Hesters murder, and the murder of another African American transgender woman, Chanelle Pickett, three years earlier, on November 19th 1995, in MA. and how no one she spoke with seemed to even remember Chanelle Pickett. The first vigil commemorated all the transgender people that were lost to violence that year, and began the important tradition that we continue here this evening, the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance.
I need to also mention at this time, the fact that Chanelle Pickett had a twin sister, Gabrielle Pickett, also a Trans Woman of Color, who was also killed, in 2003.
Here we are in 2015, and despite increased transgender visibility in the national media, 22 trans women have been murdered this year in the United States.
Of those 22, 19 were trans women of color.
And in 2014 all but one of the trans women murdered, identified as black or Latina.
2015 had the highest homicide rate of transgender and gender non-conforming people in the US ever recorded by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Program.
And just 10 days ago, in Houston Texas, misinformation and transphobia were used to overturn non-discrimination laws there. Leaving LGBT citizens of the nations 4th largest city subject to legalized discrimination.
Our community is in crisis, and under siege.
Right here in Montgomery County, a young woman, Zella Ziona, a 21 year old trans woman of color, much loved by her family, friends, and this community, was taken from us. Killed in broad daylight, (10 miles from where I stand) for simply daring to exist. Her life stolen by hatred and ignorance. We honor Zella’s memory tonight, and the memory of all those lost to violence. Violence towards trans people, particularly trans women of color, is a problem that must be confronted, now, by the LGBT community and its allies, politicians, religious leaders, and the American people.
We must hold leaders and politicians accountable for inaction on comprehensive national nondiscrimination legislation. we cannot afford to wait until it is comfortable, or politically advantageous to expand non-discrimination legislation to cover all Americans, it is the right thing to do, and we need it today. People are dying out here...
We, the people, have some serious questions that need to be answered. Who are we, and what values DO we hold dear? What kind legacy shall we leave behind for future generations? Do we as a nation intend to uphold the the idea, that all are people created equal, deserving of equal justice and civil rights? Or will we continue to treat some as more deserving of justice than others?
We are in a time of revolutionary change, a time when we must demand that those who stand for justice, refuse to remain silent, and stand with us. To demand change, a revolutionary change in the recognition of basic human rights, for everyone, everywhere, that must be led and understood by the those with the foresight to realize that Injustice anywhere, is a threat to justice everywhere. As articulated in the words of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We exist, and we refuse to be treated as second class citizens, by those who refuse to acknowledge the reality of our existence.
Being ourselves is not a lifestyle choice, anymore than the color of our eyes or the color of our skin are a lifestyle choice.
We cannot be silent, as many of us are forced to live in a constant state of fear. Fear of rejection, harassment, discrimination, violence, and the fear of death. Simply for having the audacity to be ourselves.
We must replace that fear with hope, counter ignorance with education, and counter hate with love and respect for one another. And when we see injustice, we must not remain silent, we must stand, united, to defeat it, wherever it may arise.
We need to put and end to a cycle of poverty and marginalization brought on by discrimination. We need to improve educational environments for transgender students, by promoting equality, and diversity. School should be a sanctuary for students, to nurture their abilities and to foster a lifelong joy of learning.
We need to address unemployment, by calling on the federal government to pass comprehensive non-discrimination protections in employment that include both sexual orientation, and gender identity.
We must educate law enforcement through training, and foster interaction and cooperation with law enforcement, within our communities. We must urge states attorneys to fully and swiftly investigate all open homicide cases against transgender and gender non-conforming people. We must expand our circle of friends and allies, to all those willing to listen.
Get to know someone different than you, outside of your social circle, talk to talk to them. An amazing thing happens when people take the time to get know each other, we often find that the things that separate us fall away. that we all have the same wants, needs, hopes and dreams, and that our differences are minuscule compared to our common humanity. we all want a safe place to live, a way to make an honest living, someone to love, and someone to love us back. In short: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Tonight, we stand united, to speak in honor of those who's voices were stolen from us. And we must continue to stand united as we go out into the world, we must every one of us, make a commitment to take action, to put and end to this devastating violence.