In November of every year, specifically the week of the 20th, we remember those whose lives were taken for being their authentic selves. Every year there are hundreds of deaths that impact our community. This week every year I take several moments to remember those people and am grateful for my life. This year was the 15th anniversary of Transgender Day Of Remembrance. This day was started in response to the murder of Rita Hester, a transwoman of color who was murdered in her apartment in Boston in 1999. This year alone there were 200+ transgender people killed by acts of violence. This number doesn’t include those who took their own life. Trans women of color are some of the most targeted people in the community for simply being themselves. We are all people looking to live our lives to our fullest potential. Why do these atrocities continue? One factor has to be that kids aren’t given exposure and interactions to different kinds of people in schools. This needs to change. How will you create change in your community to create citizens of the world?
I have sought out examples and resources that are working to create a learning environment where being transgender, gender neutral, transsexual, gender non-conforming is not a big deal in a school community. There is a school in the Northeast that has diversity so ingrained in their curriculum that students don’t blink an eye if a student chooses to define their identity as male one day and female another. Or if a student who identifies as male dresses in skirts. How did they accomplish this? By being aware, open to new ideas, truly having an anti-biased curriculum which has been driven, encouraged, and supported by the faculty, staff, administration, and parents. Not every school needs to go to such lengths, but the time of ignoring gender and sexual identities, and diversities in our schools has come to an end. Start small, think about educating yourself first. Collect resources from Welcoming Schools collected from the Human Rights Campaign or materials GLSEN has put together for creating a more welcoming environment. One of the simplest ways to start though, is to use age appropriate books that have different kinds of people represented as a part of your classroom library from Flamingo Rampant created by S. Bear Bergman and J Wallace. Change starts with small efforts and gains steam as you put it in action.
The transgender community is strong. We have become stronger as every year passes, but we have so much further to go. Thank you to everyone who has been in the forefront fighting to be themselves and change the systems that ignored we existed. Here are a few people/organizations that have helped me grow from seeing their advocacy and leadership:
Lawrence Richardson – Lawrence is a Pastor of United Church of Christ, writer, activist, and advocate. He designs and presents curriculums specializing in diversity and transgender inclusion.
Ryan Sallans– Ryan is a diversity trainer, author, and public speaker. His specialties are in LGBTQIA health care, campus inclusion, and workplace issues.
Pauline Park – Pauline is a gender rights advocate based out of New York. She has worked for the last 20+ years founding imperative organizations such as the Queens Pride House, OutPOCPAC, and the NY Health Care Provider Directory.
Laverne Cox – Laverne is a an award winning actress currently appearing on the Netflix series Orange is the New Black as “Sophia Burset,” an incarcerated transwomen. She is also a speaker spreading her message of living authentically beyond gender.
Dr. Kourtney Ziegler– is a writer, award winning filmmaker, and the founder of Trans*Hack– a programs that brings together transgender, a gender, and non-binary individuals to create technology that improves services, promotes safety, and creates visibility of the trans* community within technology.
Nick Krieger– is an award winning writer and author of the book, Nina Here Nor There: My Journey Beyond Gender, Yogi, and speaker. He currently speaks and leads workshops on writing, and yoga workshops.
Jennifer Boylan– Jennifer is an award winning writer and activist. Her 2003 memoir She’s Not There: a Life in Two Genders was the first bestselling book by a transgender American. She is the co-chair of the Board of Directors of GLAAD and currently is the Anna Quindlen Writer in Residence at Barnard College of Columbia University.
The Founders of CK Life Foundation – The Community Kinship Life is a Bronx, NY based organization that works to create a community where individuals who are transgender can access tools to be successful in achieving their goals and creating community.
Janet Mock – Janet is a writer, speaker, and advocate for trans women’s rights. Her book Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More was released in February 2014. She now tours as a speaker and contributes her writing to key mediums such as: Marie Claire.
Eli Erlik – is the Co-Founder of Trans Student Educational Resources which she created in response to the discrimination in school due to lack of information and understanding of transgender and queer individuals.
Body Image For Justice -Engages the LGBTQ community in discussions about body image, health, and wellness. They work towards social justice and empowerment for the trans* community through education, advocacy, and health education.
Trans Women of Color Collective – This organization works to engage, empower, and create change through uplifting narratives, leadership, and lived experiences of trans people of color.
This list is by no means comprehensive there are so many people doing much needed work within LGBTQIA community and at large. Thank you.
Let’s all take a moment and remember those individuals who were wrongfully harmed for simply being true to themselves. Find a way to create change in your community. As I always tell my students, you don’t have to agree with everything, but you do have to be respectful and kind to everyone.