November 20th every year marks the day where thousands around the world stop, think and mark the passing of hundreds of transgender people whose lives have been taken or lost to transphobic murder or suicide.
It is a solemn day and a moving day, in the words of one Northern Ireland activist on Sunday ‘you turn up, because you care’. Transgender Day of Remembrance is about paying your respects to the life, beautiy & dignity of the people who have died and its about acknowledging the negativity, exclusion and violence towards people who are gender variant. Any twitter search of the #TDOR reveals people preparing for lantern launches, speeches, ceremonies and awareness raising events. It is humbling and astonishing to discover the communities and groups in countries all around the world coming together to mark this important day.
Over the last three years that I’ve had the privilege to be involve in activism in Ireland/Northern Ireland and online I’ve learnt loads but mainly I’ve been inspired. There is something that is building momentum here, in a land that has a dominant theme concerning the battle over difference and identity, those who have conquered the battle within themselves are stepping up and speaking out, bravely for those who wish to pass by quietly, live invisibly and I’m joining them.
Transgender people in Ireland/Northern Ireland are fighting for and taking back the freedom to dress, make up, work, walk, dance and achieve with dignity and teaching the world a hell of a lot in the process.
I’ll be the first to acknowledge the diversity of people, views and expressions under the transgender umbrella and that’s also a disclaimer because my interpretation and inspiration of trans* discourses and culture are my own and not unanimously shared by any stretch. But here’s the thing; today we mourn and mark the passing of those who have been often brutally & violently murdered for their (trans*) gender identity and we also think about the pressure on those who can’t bear it any longer and are lost to us through suicide. To me this kind of transphobia is deeply, deeply rooted in a paralysing, crippling fear, because when a trans* person becomes free in expression, identity, dignity, politics & activism they are seriously and inspiringly free and that is terrifying for those who wish to remain oppressive & oppressed.
It’s not easy, the physical, mental & emotional strain on the transgender body is immense and often hidden and isolated and feels unsafe; but the journey that the individual, family and friends can potentially travel and some I’ve had the privilege of meeting seem to be well on their way to really not giving a shit, and that is seriously admirable and potentially world changing.
To me, trans* discourse & culture is where I see some of the most integritous embodiment of politics, personhood, expression and experience in the people who are living, speaking and shaping it. Where else do statements about self identification and freedom of expression collide except upon and within the oppressed and then liberated body of the trans* person? Where else does the body and the person challenge and throw off what the world has told it to be, imprisoned and barely alive to become authentic, of itself but then also turn to stand with and speak for others? In my view, I get goosebumps when I listen to trans* leaders, because I think I would vote them in to lead the world. It’s where I see love & revolution.
So this day, this sad, frightenng & sombre day is also a day of hope, this day three years ago there was no co-ordinated act of remembrance across the island of Ireland, this day has brought hundreds of people together, thousands around the world. Now more than ever it is possible to hear stories, read about the movement and get involved with supporting and advocating for less gender divisions in the world we live in, less prescriptive roles and norms for people, for respectful storytelling and question asking, for polite and considerate words and most importantly for safe passage; whether it is down the street to buy milk, into positions of employment, to play with preferred toys/activities or pathways through the health service for the right treatment.
Within our bodies we dwell, with the divine, in and of creation;
Where there are scars, we celebrate our becoming;
May we speak to the world of our joy, our freedom;
May we seek out, nurture & nourish the broken; dis-eased; captive & lost;
May our bodies reveal us, our creator and each other;
Cut open we have bled, we have healed we have been and are re-deeming;
Body, Person, Spirit
Re-covered, Re-membered, Re-turned
Trans*-formed in the image of the creator
To re-veal divinity & healing
(c) Harriet Long 2012
Normal Life – Dean Spade
Controversies in Body Theology – Lisa Isherwood & Marcella Althaus-Reid
The Yogyakarta Principles (Human Rights Interpretation & Application for Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity)
TransUnion LA – Positive & Enlighted dialogue to benefit the whole LGBT spectrum
Transgender NI – Local Northern Ireland information
Transgender Equality Network Ireland- Ireland wide organisation