We are here tonight to remember and honor our transgender and transsexual dead.We are here tonight in mourning, but we are also here in celebration. We are here tonightto mourn the brutal murders of members of our community – primarily women, andprimarily women of color – at the hands of those who would seek to destroy us. But weare also here to celebrate their lives – lives lived in authenticity and truth – and the livesof all people who live in such a way, particularly in the face of the adversity that is allaround us. Let’s talk first about our grief. Even as I prepared this speech earlier today, more deaths were being reported. Aswith every Transgender Day of Remembrance – and this is the 13th year of the organizedmemorial – names are being added to the list of the dead almost up until the very lastminute. As we read the accounts of these murders, we grieve. As we imagine the pain ofthe family, friends, and loved ones of the victims, we grieve. Perhaps some of us haveeven personally known a victim of trans-related violence, and we grieve. We grieve theloss of vibrant, active, important lives, and we grieve the circumstances that took thesepeople from us unnecessarily and far too soon. And we grieve for a world in which suchheinous and unspeakable actions are allowed to continue. Because as we are aware, these are not just “simple” murders, as if any murderwas “simple.” In many cases, these women are not “just” killed, but brutally assaulted –beaten, burned, dismembered, disfigured, sometimes almost beyond recognition. Thesemurders aren’t intended “just” to kill one woman, but to destroy an entire population.These are not killings – these are attempts at annihilation. And the hatred is still out there.
We see it every year, and every year we recognize the tragedy that it has left in its wake.And as we gather together in our grief and despair, we might wonder: What on earth dowe possibly have to celebrate? We have plenty. We have hope. Hope is in this very room. Look around you. This very room is filled, not justwith trans people, which would be enough in itself, but with friends, family, and allieswho are just as concerned about stopping this violence as we are, and they are here withus tonight to support us in remembering and honoring our dead and to say, “We won’ttolerate this, either. We won’t stand by silently and watch this happen. We will worktogether until the violence is ended. And we will help to make sure that the dead are notforgotten.” And this room in Fort Collins, Colorado, is not the only one. This weekend,across the state, the country, and the world, there are thousands of rooms just like thisone, filled with trans people, family, friends, and allies who are joined together toremember our trans dead and to make a vow to stop this violence, no matter how long ittakes, and to make sure that our dead are not forgotten. We are not alone. Events like this are taking place everywhere, and soon, theevents and attendees will far outnumber those who seek to do us harm, and eventually theworld will take notice of what is happening, and the world will finally say, “No more.” It may not happen soon. It may not happen in many of our lifetimes. And the factthat we are here together tonight says that it will happen sometime. And this is one of thesmall steps that we must take on that long road to making it happen. And we cancelebrate the fact that we are here, and that our family, friends, and allies are here with
us, to take that small step. Hope is in the victims themselves. We mourn their deaths, but we celebrate theirlives, because they had the courage to live authentically, right up until the end. Had theyhidden their true selves – had they let fear or shame or the hatred of others prevent themfrom living their authentic life, with all the joy and pain that such a life brings – theywould likely be alive today. But what kind of life would they be living? It wouldprobably be no life at all. They made the courageous decision – and the supreme sacrifice– to live as they wanted, needed, and had to live, and it was absolutely necessary. Itcould not have happened any other way. So as we grieve for our victims, we alsocelebrate our heroes – and we recognize that they are one and the same. And hope is in ourselves and our community. We are here, and by our verypresence, we are providing a blueprint for the future – a future of diversity, a future ofacceptance, and a future that values all life. We have our own authentic lives to celebrate. None of us knows what will happen to us. None of us knows what we mightsuffer or what we might have to celebrate in the future. Every day is a new challenge –and a new victory. Every day is a new chance to be heard, to be recognized, to liveauthentically, to make a difference. It might not seem so hopeful right now. As we mourn our dead tonight, hopemight seem quite elusive to us. But if you feel that hope has left you in this time of griefand sadness, remember this: Somewhere out there, right at this very moment, there is alittle trans child getting ready to be born. He or she does not yet know about the hatredand the hardship that exist in the world right now. But he or she is a symbol of hope –hope for us, hope for the future, hope for the world.
It is for that child that we stay strong. It is for that child that we join together. Andit is for that child that we celebrate ourselves, our lives, and the lives of those who havegone before us. It is for that child that we soldier on to create a new world. I would like to leave you with one thought to take with you as you go out into thecold Northern Colorado night tonight. It’s one of my favorite quotes, from a veryunexpected source: Mariane Pearl. Some of you may remember that Mariane Pearl is thewidow of Daniel Pearl, an American journalist who was kidnapped, beheaded, anddismembered by members of al-Qaeda in Pakistan in 2002. Several years ago, I was watching a documentary about Daniel Pearl’s death, andin that documentary, Mariane Pearl said, “I see happiness as a form of resistance.” Ofcourse, she was talking about her husband’s killers and her refusal to allow their actionsto control her life, no matter how much agony they had caused her. But that quote stuckwith me, and it made me think about my own community and the agony that wefrequently have to bear, and how we have to fight to keep the actions of others fromcontrolling our lives – and our happiness. I see happiness as a form of resistance. For Mariane Pearl, the resistance wasagainst her husband’s killers. For us, the resistance is against those who seek to destroyus, individually and as a community. This is why we both grieve and celebrate – for thosewho have died, for those still alive, and for that little trans child who is waiting to beborn. I see happiness as a form of resistance. And we will continue to resist. They havenot destroyed us. They have not eliminated us. And they will not prevent us frommourning our dead, from celebrating our lives, from moving forward, and from always
remembering – both with pain at our loss and with joy at the possibility of a new, bright,and hopeful future.