Trans Day of Remembrance, Complacency, and You.

We the People — Michigan
4 min readNov 20, 2020

by Vidhya Aravind, Learning Director of We the People-Michigan

A woman speaking into a mic, standing at a podium wearing a patterned dress.
Vidhya, the author, as a conference keynote speaker at Building Power: Organizing Against White Supremacy.

CW: mentions of suicide, anti-trans violence

Today, as thousands of transition related Gofundme’s go unfulfilled, Joe Biden has asked us as small donors to donate to his transition fund. Yesterday, I posted a selfie on twitter and got a classic “what even are you?!” comment. In 2018, SESTA/FOSTA was nearly unanimously passed by both chambers of congress, shoving thousands of trans sex workers into violent situations to get by, which bore out statistically with the increase of trans murders we’ve seen since. In 2015, Kamala Harris blocked a trans inmate from seeking critical treatment for gender dysphoria (and she has since apologized). Also in 2015, Jennicet Gutierrez, a Latina trans activist, interrupted a dinner celebrating Obama’s LGBT accomplishments to question him on his immigration policy and to raise awareness of the treatment of trans immigrants; she was trashed by most of the Democratic party for doing so. On November 28, 1998, Rita Hester, a trans Black woman, was murdered in Allston, Massachusetts. All of these are incidents of violence, and all of them are connected.

Today is the 22nd Transgender Day of Rememberance, originally created to honor Rita’s memory in light of the very disrespectful coverage of her death. Every year I try to use this moment to raise awareness of the complacency around trans struggles, and every year I only watch that complacency grow. When we talk about incidents of transgender violence, we usually only understand them as individual murders or moments of harassment. After Biden’s recent win and our collective attempt to see him become president over the next two months though, it’s important that we remember the ways that the state as a whole has contributed to causing the visible violences we talk about. Democrats have a long and unfortunate history of supporting anti-trans policy directly, and supporting neoliberal policies that prevent working class trans women of color from living safe and sustainable lives. I’m constantly reminded of Zoé Samudzi having said that if we wanted to improve HIV/AIDS outcomes for trans women, all we have to do is provide guaranteed housing for every sex worker. When we think of how to help trans communities in popular discourse, we always stop short of the bigger systemic changes that will actually save us, and I fear that as we celebrate the work we’ve all put in over the past few months, we’re growing in the kind of complacency that prevents those changes from happening.

Complacency here looks like a handful of things. It looks like ignorance to the lived realities and material conditions of the trans people around you. It looks like blind faith that all policy enacted by democrats is good for queer people (97 senators voted yes on SESTA/FOSTA). It looks like not doing the work of educating ourselves on sex work decriminilization, the history and present stigmatization of AIDS, the inaccessibility of queer affirming healthcare, and more. It looks like trusting the lives of our trans siblings to the votes we cast in November, and not fighting for trans dignity year round. It looks like not participating in or supporting trans mutual aid projects (like the one I started); they exist in nearly every community of trans people, and fill the role of keeping trans folks alive in place of the state, which consistently fails us. It looks like skimming this essay, seeing the plethora of informational links, and moving on with your life without clicking any of them.

My ask to all the cisgender readers of this post on this Trans Day of Remembrance is this: don’t be complacent. Push yourself to learn about the struggles of the trans community. Uplift trans activists even when their radicalism causes you discomfort. Follow and support the work of trans cultural content creators of color like Tourmaline, Kai Cheng Thom, Vivek Shraya, and Juliana Huxtable. Talk to your kids about transition, why people might do it, and why it’s important to sustain as a possibility for everyone. Push back on the very widespread narratives that seek to deny trans children agency over their own bodies and choices. I lost 6 years of my life to a suicidal rut because I was never aware of transness, and I don’t wish that on anyone. Learn about the history of gender and transmisogyny as oppressive systems, and the ways they’re interconnected with capitalism. Pursue abolitionist projects in your area, so you can know the particular ways the carceral system is uniquely dangerous to trans folks. Understand the ways that state policy continues to fail to address many of our material realities in favor of policies that signal virtue and do nothing more.

None of us are safe until all of us are safe, which means healthcare, housing, safety, and justice for each and every trans person. I will accept nothing less, and in order to guarantee the safety of me and all of my siblings, you shouldn’t either. Don’t stay complacent.

Here are some places you can share your money to help us:

https://www.blackandpink.org/DONATE/

https://www.gofundme.com/f/mtap-washtenaw

https://www.facebook.com/TSCOPD/

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We the People — Michigan

Building multiracial alliances throughout the state of Michigan in order to fight for power and build a proactive vision for what we need and deserve.