Welcome! I am Michelle Paquette, and my pronouns are she/her/hers. I am a person who transcends cultural gender boundaries, that is, I am a transgender person. In my case, as in many others, when I was born the regions of the brain that mediate perception of my body didn’t match the sex assigned to my body. To put it simply, my body didn’t fit my gender identity. We try to reconcile this as best we can, adjusting our gender presentation, roles, perhaps even through medical care.
This mismatch occurs slightly less often than natural redheads do, a normal if infrequent expression of biological diversity. Transgender people are normal, if not common, but are also the target of pervasive and persistent violence for simply existing.
"Transgender Day of Remembrance seeks to highlight the losses we face due to anti-transgender bigotry and violence.“, said founder Gwendolyn Ann Smith, who started this day in 1999 as a vigil to honor the memory of Rita Hester, killed in 1998, and all those killed through violence. She continued “...it is vitally important that those we lose are remembered, and that we continue to fight for justice."
Transgender people are a living study in intersectionality. All transgender people can be the target of transmisia, Transmisia is prejudice plus power, systemized discrimination or antagonism directed against transgender/nonbinary/genderqueer/agender persons. Historically, 17 percent of all reported violent hate crimes against LGBTQ people are directed against those who identified themselves as transgender.
Now, add into this systemic misogyny, entrenched prejudices against women within this culture, doubly impacting all transgender persons with a femme presentation. About two-thirds of all reported violent hate crimes against transgender people are aimed at transgender women and femmes.
Next, add into this systemic racism, embedded in all social institutions, structures, and social relations within our society, which triply impacts transgender women and femmes of color. Historically, over 80 percent of murdered transgender women are persons of color.
Transgender Americans experience poverty at double the rate of the general population, and transgender people of color experience even higher rates. We have an unemployment rate three times the general population, and transgender people of color are unemployed at a rate of four times the general population. Poverty and unemployment or underemployment impact transgender people’s housing and medical care, and so stability and quality of life. Those without access to stable housing and employment and left out on the streets are most vulnerable to violence.
We have seen the federal government act to permit discrimination against transgender persons everywhere from adoption services, through medical care, and even emergency shelter. We have seen our government argue in the courts that gender identity discrimination is not a sex related discrimination, and that discrimination against transgender people is perfectly legal.
We have seen the government ban military service for transgender persons, who have served honorably, as I have. We saw the government try to legally define gender to be irrevocably the sex assigned at birth.
We have seen propaganda campaigns that try to demonize transgender people, as part of a broad campaign to make simply living our lives more difficult. We have seen a new campaign launched, built on curated misinformation and aimed at transgender children and student athletes.
Allies, no, accomplices, consider what author Imogen Binnie suggested a few years ago on Twitter: ask what the article or conversation would have trans people do. And “if the answer is something like ‘not be trans,’ please consider that most trans people have tried that and it didn’t work.” And if you are having a conversation in public or private that at its core is debating whether a person should exist, please re-consider the value of that conversation.
These campaigns impact transgender youth disproportionately.
“Every day they have to hear these terrible things. They are less than a person, they can’t count, they can’t use the bathroom of their choice, they can get fired just for being who they are,” said Alexis Chavez of the Trevor Project. The Project’s research has shown some disturbing results: More than half of transgender youths have seriously considered suicide; 78% reported being the subject of discrimination because of their identity.
Since January 1 in the United States, 22 transgender or gender non-conforming people were fatally shot or killed by other violent means. We say at least because too often these stories go unreported -- or misreported.
Worldwide, in the one year period ending October first, at least three hundred sixty-eight (368) transgender persons died in violence. Thirty of these were in the United States, including deaths from violence under suspicious circumstances, and five more driven to suicide that we know of.
We have been meeting like this for twenty years. In that time, 3,317 trans and non-binary people have been recorded as dead through violence around the world. Transgender women of color bear the brunt of this terrible burden.
The visibility of transgender people can not be denied. We live in your neighborhoods. We are doctors and lawyers, ministers and judges, sex workers and artists. We are the same as everyone else.
We are here, and we will not be erased. We will not be erased.
WE WILL NOT BE ERASED.