What TDoR Means to this Mom

As a young mom I would stand over my two children as they slept in their cribs. I’d listen to them breathe and when I left the room I’d listen for the quiet, steady sound of their breath on the baby monitor. Sometimes, even though I was sleep-deprived, I couldn’t fall asleep for fear that they’d stop breathing, or something else dreadful might happen, and I would not be there to save them. Research shows that 95% of parents can relate to this. As parents we worry about the car accident, the natural disaster, the dreadful illness that might strike our beautiful children. Brené Brown refers to this as “catastrophizing” … when we dress-rehearse tragedy.

Even before our children are born we are planning, dreaming of the beautiful life ahead that we’ll build for them and with them. Although I devoted my life to teaching and protecting my children, I never could have imagined a day like Transgender Day of Remembrance and the need to protect my child from people who might want to harm him or kill him, simply for being who he is.

Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR). TDoR occurs annually on November 20th to memorialize those who have been killed as a result of anti-transgender violence, and acts to bring attention to the continued violence endured by the transgender community.

TDoR is held in November to honor Rita Hester, whose murder on November 28, 1998, launched the “Remembering Our Dead” web project and a San Francisco vigil the following year. Rita’s murder remains unsolved.

The annual event provides a forum for transgender communities and allies to raise awareness of the threat of violence faced by gender variant people and the persistence of prejudice felt by the transgender community. Communities organize events and activities. In my community, several organizations came together to plan a Transgender Day of Remembrance Vigil to be held on the steps of City Hall. I have been asked to speak at the event tonight and share what TDoR means to me, as the parent of a transgender child.

I’d like to share my speech and hope that it connects with you … perhaps as a parent or as a human being. There should not need to be a day like this. We should not be mourning the loss of hundreds of beautiful souls this year … lives tragically taken because of fear and hate.

While TDoR may be a reminder of all that I have to fear, I hope my speech, my presence, and every sharing of my family’s story can help others to understand and learn a better way to live … a way that includes love, understanding, compassion, knowledge and acceptance.

And now, the speech:

Thank you for allowing me to be part of this event.

This has been a difficult speech to prepare… partly because it is such a difficult thing for me to think about … the fact that so many transgender people are murdered simply for being who they are.

Last week I attended the candlelight vigil held to celebrate the life of LaTeisha Green on the five-year-anniversary of her death. As a mother, I wanted to be there for another mother. I wanted her to know that her daughter’s life mattered to more than just her family and friends. Written above the photograph of LaTeisha’s beautiful smiling face were the words “Celebrating a Life.” I stand here tonight to celebrate LaTeisha’s life and the lives of every transgender person and their loved ones.

We heard Tyler and others speak of the transgender lives lost to suicide and the high rate of suicide among transgender people. It was my own son’s suicide attempt 5 years ago that introduced me to the struggles, pain, and challenges of being transgender in a society where so many do not understand.

But I’m here tonight to share a story of hope and to be part of change … to help people to understand so that the violence and the fear and the injustice can end.

As I said, preparing this speech was difficult. I was asked to speak about what Transgender Day of Remembrance means to me, as the parent of a transgender child. But remembrance is present for me every day, not just one day a year. Pausing to think of and honor the lives lost to violence and to suicide, is not something I do only on Nov. 20th. As a mom, like all parents, I have dreams, hopes, and fears for my children. I want them to be happy, to be loved, to be safe. All parents do. But as the parent of a transgender child, there is an added layer of worry and fear that I never could have imagined or prepared for. There is a fear that my son could be rejected, harmed, beaten, or even killed, simply for being who he is. I think of my son and this frightening reality every day, not just today.

However, if I live my life paralyzed by this fear, and if our children are hostage to this fear, then we are not really living … and we are not able to fully share with the world the beauty of who we are … which is what I believe will ultimately put an end to the fear in others that leads to these senseless and tragic acts of violence. So on Transgender Day of Remembrance and every day, while I pay my deepest respects and honor to those who have been victims of such senseless violence, I choose not to dwell on the tragic ways they died, but instead I focus on the brave, strong, honorable ways they lived … living as their authentic selves.

While Transgender Day of Remembrance may be a reminder of all that I have to fear, I hope my presence can help others to understand and learn a better way to live … a way that includes love, understanding, compassion, knowledge and acceptance.

Thank you.