The Meaning of this Year’s Transgender Day of Remembrance

A self-reflection by Ezra Halstead, Director of Education and Outreach

This time of year is always tough for me, and each year feels like it compounds with the previous. 2020, though, really seemed to outdo itself, with the whole global pandemic and all. I’ve really had to spend a lot of time rethinking the ways in which I do every aspect of my life—even things that should be more “simple,” like self care—due to my personal and professional worlds now being combined into a corner of a room in my apartment. 

But yet, Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) tends to be a moment of clarity for me in a time of dreariness. As depressing as the history of the day is (see more here), it’s a chance for me to reflect on myself: who I am, where I’m going, and where I want to be. And this day never fails to humble me and remind me of the many ways in which I am so privileged where others in the trans community are not, especially our Black trans sisters around the world. 

Unsurprisingly, this year has been especially brutal to trans people of color. Murders of trans people have spiked alarmingly during the pandemic, with at least 28 murdered in the first seven months of 2020.That’s more than in all of 2019 (source). Most of the trans people who were killed in 2020 were women, with Black and Latina trans women particularly at risk for violence. COVID is making more and more people unemployed, homeless, and with nowhere to go. With numbers spiking yet again, it’s hard to see an end to the deaths and disparities. 

But in this bleakness, I urge all those who care about trans folks – both in the LGBTQ+ community and allies – to do what I am planning to do this year. Double down on your commitment to the trans and nonbinary community and take action like never before.

Some of the biggest things you can do to help out right now are things you can do without ever leaving your bedroom. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  1. Set up a recurring monetary donation. While this is probably the most un-fun way of supporting the work, please hear me when I say that this is absolutely crucial for the present and foreseeable future. A lot of the organizations doing the work to fight against anti-trans violence are horribly underfunded as it is, and with COVID impacting grant budgets, the funding available to these orgs is rapidly decreasing, while the need for these services is spiking. Set up a recurring donation to a local org (donate to FreeState here, or may I also suggest Baltimore Safe Haven, founded by an incredible Black trans woman doing great work, here). Even if it’s just $5, if we had 50 people donating that much each month, that is an additional $3,000 a year right there, which is huge!
  2. Virtually volunteer. At FreeState, there are various ways in which you can do this, depending on your interests, skills, and capacity. Attorneys can volunteer their services pro bono to our trans clients looking for help with changing their name. Community members can volunteer to be a part of one of our committees to get more involved with the organizational structure and management of FreeState. The possibilities are endless! Check out our current volunteer opportunities here. FreeState would not exist if it wasn’t for the support of our volunteers. I cannot express how grateful we are for each and every one of you. Alternatively, our friends at GLSEN Maryland are always looking for new volunteers to help ensure safe schools for all students. While some GLSEN chapters have full-time or part-time staff, most are entirely volunteer-based, including our state’s chapter (see more here). 
  3. Reach out to orgs or check their website/social media and see what donated items they need to do their work. For example, Moveable Feast is currently holding a holiday care package drive to collect needed items such as hand sanitizer and dental care for their clients, who are people living with HIV/AIDS, cancer, and other life-threatening illnesses (see here for more info). Or, you have a few things you were looking to get rid of, you could find a local transgender clothes swap accepting donations for the upcoming winter months. There are many ways to go about this and find the best way for you to contribute.

For me this TDoR, I am making a commitment, both inside and outside of my day job at FreeState, to donate my time, money, energy, and expertise to the trans community here in Maryland to those who most need it. I am acknowledging that there is always work to be done, regardless of what wins or losses happen in the political realm, and that there are always members of our community that are in need. I am accepting and using my privilege as a white masculine person to ensure that my Black trans siblings are not forgotten about by highlighting the need to my white friends and family members and calling on them to take action with me. This work cannot start and stop with me. I pledge to continue this work for as long as I’m here, in the hopes that one day a trans person will not be beaten or killed for simply being themselves.  

As we honor TDoR this year and remember those we have lost to anti-trans violence, I hope you join me in imagining our collective future and where we can be if we all just pitch in together. 

In remembrance and solidarity,

Ezra 

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