Since my last writing about the very personal and intimate sting of the news cycle, which revealed proposals to redefine sex and gender in a way that would roll back years of diligent work and progress that brought awareness to the true nature of gender, I’ve though more about how we take care of ourselves and our community and all the ways we can do more.
As we begin Transgender Awareness Month, we’ll have many opportunities to gather in support and solidarity with transgender individuals. Many of us will attend a vigil to honor the Transgender Day of Remembrance. We will reflect on loss, grief, and violence. This year, sadly, we are reminded that violence comes in many forms, including proposed government regulation. On this day, we remember transgender people who were taken from us, often with extreme violence, some by an epidemic of suicide fueled by systemic and widespread oppression. One of the most powerful acts of remembrance and reverence to victims of violence is the reading of names.
This past week I felt a deep sense of connection and shared loss with the Jewish community after the mass shooting at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh when I heard and read the names of the victims. In doing so, they cease to be represented as statistical data – they are people. We need to remember names and honor the lives that have been taken. Even more important than this, we must see and know the transgender and gender diverse people who are among us and thriving even amidst threats of violence and a seemingly unending system of barriers fueled by fear, ignorance and stigma.
I am a white cisgender lesbian, and at 54 years of age, I must think differently about how I connect with others in my community. When I was younger, I connected with my LGBTQ family simply because of our shared experience in our struggle for equality. However, the people I knew best and had real friendships with were the ones I had the most in common with, people who were most like me. Today there is a growing divide between my experience and the experience of LGBTQ folks who are younger or older, people of color, living with disabilities, gender expansive and diverse, and from different socioeconomic backgrounds and geography. Of course, all this diversity has always been in the fabric of our community, but now we can see each other more readily. We have so many opportunities to truly see each other, to sit together and listen and learn and honor each other. We must learn to see and understand each other.
This month we will all see the brilliant trend to honor not only transgender remembrance and loss, but also celebrate resilience and power. As we gather and see and hear the names of those who’ve been taken from us, let’s also learn the names of those who are still with us. Let’s learn what makes our brilliantly diverse community so resilient and powerful and what we can all do to strengthen, nurture, and care for each other.
Sam McClure is director of the LGBT Health Resource Center of Chase Brexton Health Care. For more about the care Chase Brexton offers for transgender individuals, visit Chasebrexton.orgranscare.