It’s 3 a.m. in the morning — Wednesday, Nov. 5 — and I am still in a daze from last night’s election results. History was made and Nov. 4, 2008 will forever be recorded in history as the beginning of a new era. An overwhelming majority of both electors and voters has decided in favor of a less divisive and more inclusive United States of America and I will admit that tears flowed from my eyes. They were tears of joy, tears of astonishment, tears of revelation, tears of realization and tears of concern that this vote could conceivably have been our last chance to change the direction in which this country and its sense of ethos were headed.
How will this vote affect the LGBT community and, specifically, trans individuals? On a political level, there is every reason to believe that a Democratic Congress and a Democratic presidency will be able to move along the critical pieces of legislation which have previously stalled — hate crimes and ENDA, to start.
On a judicial level, we have hopefully forestalled the rapidly changing conservative complexion of the Supreme Court and might even see a needed broadening of Title VII. More importantly, however, are the indications that the court of public opinion has been advanced regarding human rights, equal opportunity and the embrace of diversity.
Exit polls tell us that Obama’s support amongst those less than 45 years of age was solid in conviction, strong in numbers and remarkable in exuberance. There is every reason to believe that younger voters will treat the acceptance of diversity — race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression — as “no big deal.” Such acceptance will be a matter of course. We might not forget the history of divisiveness in this country, but we will also remember the time when we finally learned to abandon the rhetoric of discrimination and intolerance. And, we can focus on the future and issues like keeping this planet habitable.
In his acceptance speech, Barack Obama mentioned 106-year-old Atlantan Ann Nixon Cooper and all the changes she has seen in her lifetime. He went on to observe that, in like fashion, history will look back, a hundred years from now, and evaluate the direction this nation and this world decided to take at this time regarding the many critical and global issues we face. This is our chance to insure that what is remembered a century hence will be viewed as not only transformative, but redemptive as well.
As we build positive memories, however, we must remember those who could not be here today to witness this embrace of diversity by the electorate.
Nov. 20 is the Transgender Day of Remembrance and this year has been tragedy laden. In 2008 alone, 13 American and nine international trans individuals were brutally killed. Ethan St. Pierre’s website, www.transgenderdor.org, gives short bios of these 22 victims of hatred. He has compiled a wealth of other statistical information regarding trans violent deaths, going back to 1971. We must also remember those incidents wherein hatred and violence did not lead to death but still impacted the victims and their families. Hatred and violence have their source in fear and a failure to understand and communicate. Remembering is just one of the ways we break this chain.
As Mr. Pierre and others have on many occasions elucidated, the Trans Day of Remembrance is not a day for fundraising, recruiting or campaigning. It’s not a day to be co-opted in order to attract donors, build a membership base, or set forth an agenda. We don’t throw “remembrance” parties, we don’t eat “remembrance” feasts and we don’t give “remembrance” gifts. In short, this is not a celebration.
We light candles, we recollect names, we speak words to help keep the memories alive, and we stand as one in our conviction that violence against gender diverse individuals, as well as all human beings, is unacceptable. We hope that those who join with us in our circles, those who see us mourning our dead and those who read about this Day of Remembrance, will also be those who help move that court of public opinion in the direction of acceptance, tolerance and love. Our words and actions help us to communicate, to reach out to each other, and to embrace the miracle of individuality crossed with community, which serve as the warp and waft of the fabric of life. There is truly no place for hatred and violence. That chain must be broken!
So, we roll up our sleeves, dedicate ourselves to moving human consciousness forward and work towards an understanding that we have more things that unite us than things, which divide us. The future, however, is not created in a vacuum. We remember the past, learn from our mistakes, actualize all we have learned and use that as our material and tools to build this new era.
Last night was a good beginning.
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