Just Happens to be LGBT: Transgender Day of Remembrance 

click to enlarge Lauryn Farris - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • Lauryn Farris

Within the spectrum of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population, there is no group in greater need of public support, sympathy, advocacy and—frankly—love than the trans community. It’s also the community that is most poorly understood and most overlooked by just about everybody.

Thankfully, in the process leading up to the vote for San Antonio’s non-discrimination ordinance, “gender identity” was always a part of the included language, not just “sexual orientation.” It’s disheartening that legal protections such as these should take as long as they have, or that they should be as contested as they were and are.

Sadly, dozens of transgender people across the world are brutally murdered or take their own lives each year, and they are remembered internationally on a special day of reflection. Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) is generally recognized as November 20 in the U.S.

According to transgenderdor.org, “the event is held in November to honor Rita Hester, whose murder [in Boston] on November 28th, 1998 kicked off the ‘Remembering Our Dead’ web project and a San Francisco candlelight vigil in 1999. Rita Hester’s murder—like most anti-transgender murder cases—has yet to be solved.” The website has also provided a fairly comprehensive list of those who have died each year, many of whom will be recognized across the world at other TDOR events.

Locally, the San Antonio Gender Association (SAGA) observes TDOR on the third Thursday of November, this year it will be held Thursday, November 21. The program begins at 6:30 p.m. and will be held at the Metropolitan Community Church at 611 E Myrtle.

Not coincidentally, MCC is the location where SAGA’s social and support group meets for its regular meetings on the first and third Thursday of each month. The organization has had a solid and consistent home at MCC since its founding in the early 2000s.

This year’s guest speaker is Carmarion Anderson, a Dallas-area transwoman and minister at Living Faith Covenant Church. She grew up in a strict Pentecostal environment and always felt a calling to do religious work. Even though her biological family and faith congregation rejected her when she came out at 16, she still felt the need to work towards the spiritual life she lives today.

Some people may find it interesting—especially given the recent brouhaha over the local NDO—that a religious organization caters to the trans community, but MCC is an international congregation that serves all persons. Some see it as “the gay church,” but Pastor Mick Hinson says it’s so much more than that. “We are extremely excited to host TDOR. It fits in with our mission to be welcoming to all people by educating others and improving our understanding of others. It’s really part of our ongoing movement of holistic inclusion.” Just one year after arriving in San Antonio, Hinson encouraged SAGA in 2008 to take the event from the church’s social hall up to its sanctuary to encourage wider participation by not just members of SAGA, but by others as well.

That plan has worked well, according to Lauryn Farris, current president of SAGA and a longtime transgender community activist. She says that the most important thing about TDOR is to “celebrate the lives lost by people who were just living as they truly are. Those in the LGB and straight population need to see that too.”

Katy Stewart, the executive director of TENT, the Transgender Education Network of Texas, couldn’t agree more. She makes the point, “What I hope people recognize is that hate crimes against gay men and lesbians aren’t often motivated by their sexual orientation so much as their gender expression, for example, a man who displays more feminine qualities. You don’t have to be trans to experience hate like that.”

Farris adds, “By far, most hate crimes ... are against transwomen of color. Also, the solve rate for murders of transpeople is three to four times less than the general population. Transpeople also have a dramatically high attempted suicide rate.” These points are all supported by research conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and Human Rights Campaign.

San Antonio’s TDOR is a community-wide event with many groups in attendance. The event is also supported by other congregations, including Madison Square, University and Beacon Hill Presbyterian Churches, and DignitySA, the local LGBT Catholic group. But Hinson entreats all people to attend.

“It’s not only for the religious. We have a variety of people attend every year, and SAGA has members who are not necessarily members of a faith community. We don’t judge anybody.”

A special memorial will also be held this year for one of San Antonio’s most active and beloved trans activists, Michelle Myers, who passed away on June 17. Myers, a successful chemical engineer, was instrumental throughout the LGBT community and touched a number of lives since moving to San Antonio in 2000. Even after suffering a stroke in 2002, she remained engaged, active and always ready to participate anywhere she was needed. The Wednesday before she passed away, I recall seeing her at one of the many Citizens to Be Heard sessions to support others as they spoke before council in support of the NDO. Myers, and all of her trans brothers and sisters who were lost this year, will be sorely missed.

Below is this month’s “I Am” statement. Send your own 100-word statement to currentlyrichard (at) gmail.com for publication in future “Just Happens to Be LGBT” columns.

sa_20131030_katystewart

Katy Stewart

Born and raised in San Antonio, I graduated from Texas A&M with a Bachelor’s in chemistry and a minor in curriculum and instruction. I have worked as a radio producer, an on-air DJ and in the radio, television and cable advertising field since 1990. My family still owns about 100 acres outside of Boerne, and growing up I fell in love with the Hill Country. I was taught to hunt at the age of 11, but prefer watching and capturing the beauty of wildlife with a camera rather than a gun. My partner and I have been together since 2004 and have three “dogters” (puppy kids). And, I just happen to be LGBT.

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