Sunday, November 22, 2009

Reflections: Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) 2009

Yesterday we held our TDOR event at The LOFT in White Plains, NY. It was a very moving day for me. You see, I’ve spent the last year or so working on pieces on the event and a few months ago I was elected to the Board of Director of The LOFT and helped organize the event. I had a lot of help, thank god for that. For my first event, I felt good about how well it came out and it touched many hearts. The turn-out was good from the transgender community and new allies. I would like to thank everyone who came to this event or any TDOR event in this country. As I reflect back on yesterday’s event, I feel the need to do more. The name’s we read yesterday did not have to die. It is because of ignorance and misunderstanding do they lose a chance to live a happy life. I talked to a friend today. No actually I came out to her today. Even though I was nerves to lose her friendship, Several events this past year have brought me to this point in my life. The TDOR event made it painfully aware of the work that needs to be done to help people understand our community. The only way to make that change is to be open to people in your life. Change does not happen unless we tell our stories and people have a chance to see that we are human. We are valued members of our society. We all strive to live a productive and happy life just like any other community in this world. Yet some strive to drive our community in the ground. Our TDOR event drove home even deeper was how this hate and misunderstanding that must drive people to murder someone also drives even more of our community to end their own lives from depression gained from the rejection of our family, friends and society.
As I came out to my friend today, I thought about all the names on the list, the ring of the gong as each name was called out. After the vigil I had to step out to get some air, but as I stood there alone in the cool winter evening. I wondered if the ones that passed felt that alone and how it must have felt as they passed away with no one to comfort them. I kept hearing “stabbed 40 times”, “decapitated and dismembered”, “Shot 13 times”, “beaten to death”. It was just too much for me to take in. How does someone beild up that much rage to do that to another human being. I had to take a moment to gather myself together before going back inside. My desire to educate others has grown so much over this last year by attending events like this. I been inspired by the strength that I have seen in our speakers yesterday. They had the strength to persevere through the hate, bigotry and the misunderstanding of others. Yet they live their lives to the fullest.
As I sat there for a response from my friend, many thoughts are going through my head. But she turned to me and said that’s ok. She knows some people around her block that are transgender and talks to them all the time as they walk down the street. As she turned to me to give me a hug, I felt a since of relief. I turned to her and thanked her for her support and as we talked a bit more as I told her my story. She admitted that this was the last news that she would have expected but was glad I told her because she learned a lot.
After our vigil we revealed a project that we have been working on for the past year. To Advocate, Educate and Celebrate our community, we created a project called the T-Project. It’s a art project where we used still photography and video to educate the public about our community. We hope to raise awareness of our community in a positive and meaningful way, by Advocating, educating and celebrating our community. We would like to rolling this out to other LGBT community centers in the area, then possibly expanding to include other participants in other parts of the country, if there is interest that is ;) The project contains professional still photography matted and framed in the shape of the letter T. Each participant wrote essay which was displayed alongside the framed photos. One additional peace I worked on personally was a video that captured clips of each participant as they talked about being transgender. It came together for a powerful message. It gave even more meaning to the TDOR as a whole. It includes caption for the hearing compared members of our community. We hope to inspire others how are questioning their gender to reach out for a helping hand as it can be an important first step in discovering yourself all over again.
As I looked over at one of our new members who told me the other day, that they had a smile on their face thinking about himself while driving home from their first meeting. I thought we must still give hope to others that come behind us. At the beginning of my journey I felt so alone, no one to talk to how I felt I could trust with what was within me. So I built a barricade around me to project myself from any harm that come my way. I did my best to live up to what society expected of me, leaving behind my dignity and Identity. I don’t know about you, but I really appreciated the help and support that I received when I finally started to find people who know what being transgender means. I reached out many times just like my new friend has, I was inspired by many of the storied I read, many became good friends. I gained my dignity back, but most importantly, I gained my Identity back. If it was not for the hope I gained by reaching out, the future did not look like a happy one.
I have hope that we can cut those numbers down in the future. It may not be easy, but it’s something that must be done. By supporting our community we also grow stronger. So reach out to a hand in need of an ear to listen. You may be surprised by what you find within yourself. Be Authentic.
Michelle Lee

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