Remembrance, by Sahra Taylor

Sahra is a member of the LGBTIQ Greens Committee, and she was one of the organisers of this year’s Transgender Day of Remembrance in London. the following is her speech from TDoR in London, which is reposted with her permission.


Last year was the first time I attended TDOR. I had started my transition about 9 months before, after decades of battling myself, hating myself, lashing out at the world and punishing myself for being broken.

I’d finally reached acceptance with myself. But I was still new and vulnerable. I’d been lucky – I’d managed to secure a place and funding for my PhD so I knew the next 3 years were secure years.

I knew I’d been lucky. Really really luck. I knew I’d been privileged.

This overly tall trans woman, of a modicum of colour, of mixed race heritage, rejected by her family, but welcomed by so many of her friends, had experienced privilege. A lot of it.

Hearing the list of names being read out last year was a harrowing experience. It was echoed by the “that could have been me” thought. It is shadowed with the “I’m just like that” thought. I felt lucky and grateful that it wasn’t me, and then guilty for being grateful. I felt relieved that it often happens far away from us, and sick that we live in a world where it happens at all.

This year I have been involved in organising Transgender Day of Remembrance London 2015.
Thankfully I have not had to research the people themselves. I’m not sure if I would have the strength to endure the sight, the words, the stories of abuse, murder, harassment, suicide and pain. The misgendering in the news, the cruelty of the police forces, the hatred of so many… the rejection that so many of us experience that drives us out of safety and forces us to a precarious existence on the margins of society.

And then to have to go through that same experience again and again and again and again…

Not all trans women are sex workers, but enough are for it to be telling. For it to make a difference. Their rejection by society often leads them to unconventional work. The illegality of the work, both for themselves and their clients, compounds this risk.

Predominately, we women are underpaid and vulnerable. Predominantly, we women of colour are underpaid and vulnerable. Predominantly, we trans women are underpaid and vulnerable.
Predominantly, we trans women of colour are underpaid and vulnerable.

Discriminated by health services (if they exist), refused treatment, driven out of homes, chased out of ‘society’ for being ‘freaks’, ‘faggots’, ‘paedophiles’, ‘cursed by god’. A source of shame to humanity and it’s false coding of a gendered binary. A threat to fragile masculinity which is too often responded to with lethal force.

And so more trans people are murdered.

And every year we gather together to remember their names. To say to each other that their lives, who they are, who they truly are – is not forgotten. It is an emotional time, a painful time, and sadly a necessary one. We tell poems of our struggles, hopes and dreams, dirges to the lost, songs of anger at their deaths, and hopes for the future. We rant against the hate cry in fear and pain, and retreat in the face of malice. And then we stand back up and face it all. And we do it again and again and again, because even with all the fear and the hate and the pain, we know who we are. We’ve had to find and accept ourselves through all of that.

TDOR is a partial day of remembrance. We don’t include those driven to their death by their parents, families or friends. Those abused and hurt enough that they would seek release through suicide. Those who look out a world that they see as hating them, negating their experiences, their sense of self, their love of self.

If we did that, with a suicidality rate of 48% (i.e. 48% of trans people have tried at least once to kill themselves), we would undoubtedly be confronted with names in the thousands, tens of thousands even. It would look like it is. A profound hatred of those who breach the line of the conventional, mostly unspoken, gender divide.

TDOR is a partial day of remembrance because in most countries trans people aren’t even recognised. Without recognition, we are often even more isolated – and vulnerable. Forced to hide from sight the truth of ourself, forced by the callousness of society to hate ourselves. Taught by a warped belief that we are broken and a source of shame. Told in oh so many little ways that there is no hope.

This is one story.

Another could be filled with hope – with opportunity – with success and love… and then murder at the hands of the one you love. The senselessness that allows countries to have laws justifying the murder of trans people. The so-called “trans panic” defence”.

The stories go one. Some are complex and wide, others are mere fragments. A hint that this person was trans, but hidden behind silence and shame. Often our deaths go unnoticed. Often they masquerade as the death of a ‘troubled’ child, of a ‘gay’ person, of maybe just ‘a person led astray’.

The stories, the tragedies, the losses, are buoyed up by the repetitions of “bloke in a dress” narratives, of “freaks”, of lurid stories in the media. Of vile words accepted as ‘just an opinion’ when we know that society turns on these concepts. Words which, when permitted and repeated, again and again, turn ever so slightly the trajectory of a few. Which subtly, silently, give just a little bit more permissiveness to another the idea that that is all we really are. That is what we deserve. To encourage the ‘moral’ standpoint against the acceptance of us as authentic, honest-to-god, human beings. This othering of us as something different to human has an end result of the standing aside by the many from the hatred of the few.

And so we remember them once more.