There are ample things to be said about such a day as this. For me the Day of Remembrance is about remembering the lives of those we have lost as they would want to be remembered, as the people they truly were, not as the lie that cis media repeats ad nauseam. I have wondered aloud if journalists go to a special school where they learn how best to utterly trash and defame dead trans women. The rather unpleasant spectacle created by the British press- both populist and ‘higher class’- surrounding the death of Sonia Burgess is just one all too contemporary example of the kind of slander that becomes so bad many have described it as a second death. Yet deaths like hers are often the ones that get the most attention; as the list on any number of TDOR websites will tell you, those we lose are often from groups less likely to be mentioned in the papers under any circumstances. The unremembered women on the front lines of sex work, impoverished women in Latin America just trying to get by, the poorest of the poor right here in my hometown. They too must be remembered, for their passing is often completely unmarked.
TDOR has been, for me, a time to remember who these people- the crushing majority of whom were women- really were. Their true names, their true lives, they way they lived, and what they lived for. So often, here at the nadir of cissexist hatred in our society, that same society avails itself of the opportunity to broadcast to all who will listen lies compounded by lies about the lives and identities of the now dead trans woman who is now utterly unable to speak for herself; the media takes this opportunity to tell us a tale of men in dresses and of female names in scare quotes, a sirensong of salacious goings on, whispers of sex work, a dramatic narrative of deception and “surprise”, and the curtain falling on the pinnacle of the final act, another nameless woman dead and waiting for the cameras. For the media, that is who we are- a lovely little piece of the puzzle that fits neatly into a story they have already written, about a life they care next to nothing about.
Thus it is that we insistently dare to remember, dare to call our lost and fallen siblings by their real names, and today is a day where we dare to thumb kyriarchy, dare to call the patriarchal press the profound virtuoso liar and cheat that it is, and dare to survive, dare to remember both our own courage, and our worth.
There are some who say that this day is too sombre, sad, and depressing. There is a lot that is worth celebrating about our existence, they say. Life as well as death. Joy as well as pain and loss. Some of these same people say that it’s even a whiff of internalised transphobia that makes this commemoration of death “our holiday” rather than something more festive. To this I say the following: due to the foregoing I have said about how we are so often not remembered, or explicitly and intentionally misremembered, this day is a necessary bearing of witness. It is a necessary reminder of the need to protect our identities and the truth of our lives, and to protect the memory of those who have been lost. The near total disgrace and erasure we experience on death, a death so often at the hands of another, is something that is almost completely unique to this community. A day devoted to a community and ally based remembrance of the truth then becomes necessary and powerful.
For me, there is a rich and potent joy to womanhood, to trans-ness, and to the journey that I will always be on. The people I have met, and the experiences I have had are treasures I would trade for nothing else on the Goddess’ green earth. Those joys I know are the product of me living a life where I am true to myself at last. Thus we had best remember that truth for those who are no longer with us.
Let every other day of the year be the grand, insistent, defiant, radical and oh-so-beautiful celebration of our lives. But today we must remember.
Because, as is unfortunately true about so much else in this community, if we do not- who will?
P.S. The slug off to the far left is playing Amazing Grace, in case you were wondering what a bagpipe was doing in that picture. ::winks::