More than 100 people attended, and we were incredibly privileged to host several of Zella Ziona’s family members, including one of her maternal aunts who spoke during the service -- Zella is a trans woman of color who was murdered in Gaithersburg in October (my partner’s hometown, where we live with our family); may her memory be a blessing (as we say in Judaism).
We also welcomed MD state Senator Jamie Raskin and his wife Sarah Bloom Raskin, Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger as well as officers from Takoma Park and elsewhere, and possibly other community leaders. There was also at least one member of the media, a reporter from the Montgomery County Sentinel who took photos and did interviews, but we haven't found their work yet.
My partner Julia McCrossin and I were on the event committee for the second year in a row (she’s a native, I’m a Boston native who moved here last January). Begun because of murders in my native Boston in 1998, #TDOR is an international observance, centered around November 20th, that honors the many trans people lost to violence and suicide, and inspires action towards trans-inclusive social justice. The focus is on trans women of color, who experience some of the most extreme oppression, nationally and globally.
Click here for the printed program, here for the photos of the church’s signage and more, here for the flyer, here for the press release, here for our Facebook event and here for our Twitter (#MCMDTDOR).
And here is a summary of the program (including post-printing changes), including a link to the text of the Address; the service was ASL interpreted.
- Rev. Julia Jarvis began the service with a Tibetan singing bowl and silence
- Nikki Ames sang Paul Simon’s Bridge Over Troubled Water, accompanied here and throughout by Clarice Snyder
- Ezra Towne led a responsive reading of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s Dirge Without Music
- RUC’s Rev. Scott Winnette and I gave a welcome
- My partner Julia McCrossin read what was listed as a Hopi prayer but is actually Mary Elizabeth Frye’s Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep, and lit a candle
- I spoke about the names and invited attendees to share any names they wished to
- Rev. Julia Jarvis gave more Tibetan bowl song and silence
- Rev. Art Waidmann read Rabbis Sylvan Kamens and Jack Riemer’s At The Rising Of The Sun / We Remember Them
- Rev. Jill McCrory read these words by Audre Lorde: “In becoming forcibly and essentially aware of my mortality, and of what I wished and wanted for my life, however short it might be, priorities and omissions became strongly etched in a merciless light, and what I most regretted were my silences. Of what had I ever been afraid? To question or to speak as I believed could have meant pain, or death. But we all hurt in so many different ways, all the time, and pain will either change or end. Death, on the other hand, is the final silence. And that might be coming quickly now, without regard for whether I had ever spoken what needed to be said, or had only betrayed myself into small silences, while I planned someday to speak, or waited for someone else’s words. “
- One of Zella Ziona’s maternal aunts spoke, and did so with astounding grace -- Eli Sauerwalt was also scheduled to speak, but was home sick, refuah shlemah
- Rev. Julia Jarvis invited donations to support Zella Ziona’s family, and as they were collected Nikki sang Jerry Herman’s I Am What I Am
- Marcia Simpson gave an excellent Address -- click here to read it
- I invited attendees to further prepare for the vigil
- Karen Holmes read these words by Laverne Cox: “We are not what other people say we are. We are who we know ourselves to be, and we are what we love. And that's okay.... Each and every one of us has the capacity to be an oppressor. I want to encourage each and every one of us to interrogate how we might be an oppressor and how we might be able to become liberators for ourselves and for each other.
As the service ended, I joined Rev. Miller Hoffman on an island in the church’s parking lot, where he read the names and I displayed them on a tablet while the attendees, holding battery-powered tealights, built the cairn with their stones on a rainbow-clothed table and then gathered around us in a half-circle.
After the names were read, we had a few moments of silence, then returned to the church to exchange our tealights for Japanese-style origami cranes (by Robin Allen), and begin the dinner reception of soups homemade by the hospitality subcommittee (chaired by Carol Edwards), breads donated by Nourish Now, desserts and drinks.
Thank you, everyone!!! May you be inspired to work for trans-inclusive social justice here in MoCo and beyond in 2016. We hope to gather with you next November if not before.