Here are my closing words to last Sunday's Transgender Day of Remembrance service at the College of William and Mary.
It would be easy now to be overwhelmed and helpless; so many lives and so many young lives taken far too soon, taken because of misunderstanding and hate. Lives taken because they were different, viewed as outside the mainstream, challenging binary notions of gender and challenging heterosexist assumptions. Not all who were killed necessarily identified themselves as transgender, some were killed because assumptions were made based on appearance.
Yet this is not the time to be helpless or hopeless. It does not honor these lives that were lost for us to get lost in our own hopelessness. In the words of Dorothy Day, “No one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless. There’s too much work to do.”
Yes too much work to do. Work to break down stereotypes and rigid assumptions about gender. We need to work toward a time when everyone is free to be who they are, to express their gender identity without fear of violence, losing their jobs or being treated less than. Each of us can do this work by first living our own lives with as much authenticity as possible. Each of us can do this work by challenging rigid notions of gender and expression.
Each of us can work for the day when we will gather together for one final Transgender Day of Remembrance Service and there will be no new names to read. The day when we will gather one final time to say “We remember, we never forgot;” a day to celebrate a time when no one need live in fear of violence, a day when we can all be just who we are.
May it be so.