Alison Davis, the former coordinator of the Southern Arizona Gender Alliance who recently relocated to Seattle, on Transgender Day of Remembrance and so much more:
Often my scope of activism is narrowly focused on gender and transgender related issues. I participated in my 10th Transgender Day of Remembrance last night. It was my first in Seattle, my new home. I felt moved to talk a bit at the event. It was another year of brutal murders of my trans sisters. (I did not see any trans men listed this year.) I think a lot about the anger, fear and hatred directed at my transgender community. I am amazed and not surprised by the amount of violence directed at those who challenge gender norms. We really scare people. We challenge reality and all of the social conventions most folks assume to be "normal". By our very existence we cause people to question themselves and their relationships. We are a very real threat. Boo!
On, perhaps, an even broader stage, I am watching people brutalized and murdered by the political and economic powers that be. I saw the 84-year-old woman pepper sprayed by police in Seattle last week and the students at UC Davis sprayed while sitting in protest. I watched the people in Egypt in Tahrir Square beginning a second round of demonstrations - facing death - in order to obtain some sort of a voice in their own future. I hear and read about Syrians and others defying armed military in order to get a taste of elusive autonomy and "human rights". I am in awe of their courage. I am delighted to see the light turning on in so many minds.
Way back in the '60s in the USA I was transformed by forces arrayed against me and many others. I realized that our war on Vietnam was not moral, right, or coherent. I joined with others to protest against it and against "my government" deciding my morality in such a horrific fashion.
I was in Chicago in August of 1968 - hitchhiking back to the West Coast- and found myself facing down the barrels of rifles and machine guns. I was tear-gassed, beaten, and jailed by the Chicago PD as I followed the Rev Ralph Abernathy and the "Poor Peoples March" towards the convention center to confront the Democratic Party and its misguided focus on war instead of taking care of folks at home. When our march was stopped by National Guard troops in front of The Hilton Hotel on Michigan Ave. we sat down. TV cameras were on us. What would the police and powers-that-be do with the eyes of the world on them. What they did was to charge into a crown of folks sitting on the ground and start clubbing them . . . on National Television. I was astounded back then. I am no longer astounded. Now I am profoundly saddened.
I am heartened that folks are now so aroused. I applaud "Arab Spring" and our own "Occupy" efforts. I am terrified that nothing but more brutality and the control of dissidents will come of it. We do not tolerate dissent well. Differences question our understanding of reality. It is much more comfortable to be right.
Whether we challenge gender, economics, or politics, we will be met with fierce fear-based resistance. There will not be a dialogue. There is no desire to "embrace differences". Differences are a threat.
So . . . my activism is rooted in serious skepticism. Revolution is absolutely worth doing. I have only a glimmer of optimism about results. I'd love a full-out conversion of consciousness. A non-violent transformation into a world in which we actually care for each other and the environment we share is my dream. I imagine a society fueled by curiosity, wonder, and compassion. What else is there to do?