Last year for Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR), we were out in the streets. Speaking names and lighting candles for the people we’d lost that year, and holding the names of the people we’d lost before then in our hearts. In New York, we were pushing for the repeal of the Walking While Trans ban, a small piece of legislation that would protect trans women, and especially trans women of color as they lived their lives.
An entire year has passed, and here we are again, with another list of names of people we love, lost to violence of all kinds. Memorials are important spaces to grieve and a way to combat the violent erasure of our stories.
As the language of accountability becomes co-opted and diluted by those who want to lead us further from it, I wonder when we will shift from memorializing and bringing attention to the violence and pivot to interrupting that violence. Not ‘we’ as the trans people who deserve time and space to mourn and grieve, but we, as the institutions, organizations, and people whose privilege protects them from this violence. These institutions and people who have the actual power to change the circumstances and push back against the tacit acceptance of transphobia need to do so much more than memorializing or retweeting.
We need to shift policy and redistribute wealth — and trans people will continue to be lost to violence in various forms unless we do. We cannot do this under the guise of mutual aid: We have taken so much from the trans community, we could never reciprocate.
We know what needs to be done to meaningfully interrupt this violence. People have screamed for it. Research has been done about it. Common sense would tell you. Trans people need decriminalization, housing, healthcare, access to employment – and these are all things we hold a lot of power to shift. Anything less isn’t enough. Until we shift the material conditions that allow violence against trans people to happen, and that allow trans people to be vulnerable to violence. Nothing will change.
So now this year, as another TDoR rolls around, where, in NY, we are still speaking the names of and lighting candles for those we lost. Where we are still pushing for the repeal of the Walking While Trans ban. Please, make space for trans people to grieve. Continue to redistribute wealth. But know that awareness of violence means nothing when we have the means to interrupt it.