On Nov. 20, take time to honor the memory of those we've lost in the "T," or transgender community, on the ninth annual Transgender Day of Remembrance. Often the most spirited and colorful members of the LGBTIA rainbow, those who identify as trans are also, at times, the most invisible.
Every year, we lose beautiful people to hate crimes, HIV/AIDS and suicide. The laws meant to protect simply don't reach as far as they should.
Films like Transamerica and Sundance Channel's Transgeneration bring to light and chronicle the day-to-day lives of what some in the trans community experience. Though we are seeing and learning more about the trans community via the media, not enough of us are taking time to know the real people.
Books like TransParent by Cris Beam take an in-depth, real look at trans youth and the difficulties these young people face being trans in a homophobic and often "T"-phobic world.
We need to celebrate those in the "T" community who were brave enough to let their voices be heard, speaking with clothing and spirit of their hearts, finding courage to identify with the woman or man within. The scrutiny that anyone labeled as being different from the norm faces when they dare to be the person they are is strong. Some of us who are gay, lesbian or bi can cover up if we choose. However, if one is trans and true to themselves, it's truly a different experience.
I don't believe the "T" community has gotten the respect it deserves for being so strong. I've watched over the past few years as the "T" community has fought along with the rest of the LGBT community for equality and the right to be. I've also seen some very unloving behavior from the LGB communities toward the "T" community, as if they somehow aren't "gay enough" to warrant the same respect that the rest of the community believes it is warranted.
How crazy is that? Transgender community members are part of our family. They have families and lovers, and deserve the love and respect that all human beings should receive. They are someone's child and often some child's parent.
I've attended funerals, far too many, for trans youth who were murdered and taken away far too early. These were great kids who grew up really fast; most were left to their own devices, and the streets won. At some funerals, the departed were laid to rest respectfully. With others, the sermon was filled with hate, judgment and a lack of understanding of what the departed represented.
I stand with my trans brothers and sisters for truth and justice. I know that their struggle is inclusive of my struggle as an African American, a woman and a same-gender-loving individual. I remind those who, like me, are same-gender-loving, and those who love opposite me, that when we alienate a person and start pointing fingers and claiming someone is a lesser person, we all lose.
We are here on Earth for such a short time. The lessons we have to learn, while great in number, are not unconquerable; we learn them or repeat them.
To the trans community, I say: Stand strong in who you are. Know that your fight for equality will be victorious and that you will have people fighting with you. Even as you strive to win against those who oppose you, know that you are love; you deserve to be loved, and you have a gift to share with the world. The struggle for self-identity and self-acceptance must always trump the noise of those who don't believe you matter.
Once you make up your mind to be true to yourself, do so knowing it is your God-given right to let your light shine. Local resources include Wingspan, the Tucson Interfaith HIV/AIDS Network, and the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation.