Every year there is this long list of names of people we are supposed to get together and remember after they have been murdered. They have become martyrs, whose deaths then can be used to push legislation that would do nothing to prevent these murders or even slow the pace at which they are happening.
Over 42 years ago in San Francisco and Berkeley the US Government under the aegis of the War on Poverty was actually doing something that helped anyone who wanted help to get out of that absolute bottom of the ladder class, even transsexual and transgender people could enter War on Poverty programs and get assistance.
Today, over forty years later the right wing trumpets the big lie of what a failure the War on Poverty was, omitting the fact that the actual War on Poverty was strangled in its infancy by Richard Nixon. Nixon replaced the War on Poverty with the Welfare Ghetto which was in turn killed off by Bill Clinton and the Republican Contract on America in the 1990s.
Why is this relevant to the murders of transsexual and transgender people in America?
There are two distinct classes of transsexual/transgender folks. The privileged and the non-privileged. Many of those among the privileged had a good deal of male privilege before transitioning in middle age, with that male privilege came the money for surgery and most importantly careers that isolate them from the depredation of the streets, extreme poverty and hopelessness.
Others among those who come out young have white skin privilege, class privilege, educations and supportive loving families that keep them from falling into the lumpen classes where most of these murder victims are found.
The sad truth is that most of the people on the list of TS/TG people, who are murdered are people of color. Racism is one part of the pattern of victimization that made these people vulnerable. Religion that tells families to disown these kids is another. Dire poverty leads people to prostitution. Sometimes when I hear class and education privileged folks describe prostitution as being both sex-positive and a conscious lifestyle choice I want to smack them upside the head.
I sometimes think prostitution like the rampant drug and alcohol abuse found in both the transgender and transsexual communities are dirty secrets that no one in the rarefied lobbying world of Transgender Inc politics wants to see exposed for fear it will harm legislative efforts to pass such bills as a Trans-inclusive ENDA.
The chickens are coming home to roost on some forty years of class war and the neo-Apartheid that replaced Jim Crow in this country. The pendulum is swinging back to the left, people are rejecting the Ayn Rand ethos of cruelty and are looking for alternatives that bring us all together.
Perhaps rather than just remembering the TS/TG folks who have been murdered it is time to start demanding solutions that might lessen the appallingly long list of victims we see each year.
Maybe we can act locally while thinking globally.
One thing that might be a good start would be for local support groups to reach out to long term post-SRS women who have been able to live clean and sober after having dealt with substance issues. Or post-transsexual women who are former sex workers.
Ask them to come and speak at peer support group meetings, listen to them and learn from them rather than dismissing what they have to say. Take what they are willing to give, but don’t demand they give more than they have to offer, because getting away from the scene is often a vital part in recovery from those issues.
Join with Occupy and make demands for economic justice, real jobs, for living wages along side of all the other minority groups, along side the unemployed and under-employed.
Demand programs that offer job training for everyone who has been discarded by this right wing regime, which operates on the principle of depraved indifference instead of equality and human dignity for all.
While we mourn these victims of obvious violence we need remember how young this violence starts. The bullying, the parental abuse. The spiritual abuse that comes from religious tyrants peddling hatred and bigotry in the name of religion.
Those who commit suicide, those who die of drug over doses are victims of the same mindset that led to the murders of those recognized as martyrs.
We, ourselves are guilty of malevolent neglect as long as we pretend not to see these problems within the various transsexual and transgender communities.
It isn’t enough to look at the names on these lists and weep.
It isn’t enough to focus on one aspect of oppression when most of the people getting murdered are oppressed for multiple reasons.
Employment non-discrimination measure won’t help kids who have drug problems and can’t pass a drug test that has become mandatory for employment.
Employment and housing non-discrimination won’t help the throw away transkid who is working the streets because her family threw her out to be prey for the wolves that look for victims among the people who society has declared to be human trash.
We must confront those who peddle hate in the name of religion.
We need to start questioning the steady stream of violence porn that has become a staple of movies and television.
We need to focus on local groups that address the needs of the kids on our own streets instead of funding lobbyists in organizations that continually beg for more money while showing little in the way of actual results.
Perhaps we need to consider supporting local efforts aimed at offering alternatives to addiction and sex work. Shelters for the throwaway kids and those adult TS/TG folks who are homeless.