On Trans Day of Remembrance, A Few Reasons to Hope

This Monday, Nov. 20, is Transgender Day of Remembrance. Just like every year, this day is one for solemn reflection and mourning. There have been, on record, at least 25 trans people killed since the beginning of 2017. 25 moments of silence, 25 reasons to cry.

But in the midst of the disaster that is the Trump administration and all the havoc it has wreaked on the trans community, we have to stay strong and look forward. We must celebrate the small victories we have.

Tuesday, Nov. 7, was one of the best election days many progressives could have hoped for and a wonderful day for the trans community. 

Andrea Jenkins and Phillipe Cunningham, both black trans people, became the first and second openly trans people of color elected to the Minneapolis City Council. (Jenkins beat out Cunningham for the title of 'first' by a few hours.)

Danica Roem defeated self-proclaimed “chief homophobe” Bob Marshall for a seat in the Virginia state legislature. Roem is now the first openly trans woman elected to a state legislature, and the second trans woman ever elected to a state legislature. (Althea Garrison, elected to the Massachusetts legislature in 1993, was the first.)

In Pennsylvania, Tyler Titus, a black trans man, was elected to the Erie School Board.

Closer to Claremont, Lisa Middleton won a seat on the Palm Springs City Council and became the first openly trans candidate elected to a non-judicial position in California. Christy Holstege, who is bisexual, was also elected, making the entire four-person city council queer or LGBTQIA+.

Of course, these elections don’t come anywhere close to combatting the damage inflicted by a Republican-controlled federal government. The practical works of Ms. Jenkins, Mr. Cunningham, Rep. Roem, Mr. Titus, and Ms. Middleton are all limited to their state, city, or special district.

But in a less concrete sense, wow. That’s a lot of trans people in government who weren’t there last year or even last month. Every single one of those people is a role model and an inspiration to trans people, and especially trans kids, in their area and beyond.

Roem's opponent, Bob Marshall, was one of the lead sponsors of a “bathroom bill” similar to HB2 in North Carolina and SB6 in Texas. During the campaign, Marshall refused to debate Roem, and misgendered her consistently when talking about her.

And Roem beat him by eight percentage points. That sets an example: when your representatives trash-talk and bully you and people like you, run against them, beat them, and take their jobs.

However, these victories don’t make up for everything the Trump administration has done. When Betsy DeVos repealed the Dear Colleague letter on protections for trans students, this country took definite steps backward. When the ban on trans people in the military came down and was subsequently bounced around the courts, that was a definite step backward.

The nomination of Jeff Mateer, who called transgender children part of “Satan’s plan,” to the federal judiciary was a step backwards. The judicial nomination of Mark Norris, who opposed the trans-positive Dear Colleague letter and has supported multiple discriminatory laws at the state level, was a step backwards.

But we are fighting back and we are making strides towards change.

Chelsea Manning had her sentence commuted by Barack Obama back in mid-January and since being released in May has gained a large Twitter following, had multiple speaking engagements, and been named Newsmaker of the Year by Out magazine.

Gavin Grimm, who became a national figure in his quest to use the boy’s bathroom at his high school, graduated high school this spring. Right up to his graduation, his school refused to let him use the boy’s bathroom. But he did graduate and he never gave in. He decorated his graduation cap with a restroom sign.

And for the rest of us, we have survived. Even if we have done nothing but live our lives every day since Trump’s election, we are still here and still fighting.

I exist as a queer trans person and I know that’s enough to haunt the likes of Mike Pence, Donald Trump, Roy Moore, and Jeff Mateer everyday. But if they’re going to say I’m part of Satan’s plan, well, then, I’ll be part of that plan. Better that than align myself with whatever faux-righteousness the Right spouts while covering up their own, very real sins.

I am not going to be silent. I refuse to stand down and give in. But I understand that there are people who are forced into silence, or must remain in silence for their own safety.

The worst thing that anyone – trans or not – can be in this political climate is complacent. After a year of Trump, we’ve become so accustomed to the administration’s disturbing hijinks that each new development feels like just another day. It’s easy to become complacent but complacency is deadly. When we do not stand up for ourselves and our friends who are forced into silence, we fail ourselves, our friends, and our country.

Human rights – and human beings – die in the silence of complacency. We, as a trans community, must seek out opportunities and seize them: anything from writing articles, to speaking at community meetings, to running for office.

So on Monday, we have 25 reasons to mourn, and we will mourn. But we also have plenty of reasons to celebrate. Every single trans person who made it through this year is a reason to celebrate. Every electoral victory, every kid who escapes a bad situation, every person who speaks out against the injustices against the trans community, is a reason to celebrate.

Trans people have always existed and thrived, and we will continue to exist and thrive, Donald Trump and company be damned.

Here’s to another year. Maybe, just maybe, this one will be better.

Donnie TC Denome is a second-year public health major at Pitzer. They hail from Silicon Valley and hope to work in HIV care in San Francisco one day.