By James Wen, Equality California Program Associate
As the City of West Hollywood Transgender Advisory Board adjourns each month, we say aloud the names of our community members who have been killed in the previous four weeks. We hold these names in a moment of silence, an exchange between the living and the dead and a recognition of our own mortality. Being transgender means not taking a moment of life for granted.
The past year has seen the reported killings of 27 transgender people in the United States alone, including a little-publicized transgender victim of arson who died in June in a vacant Los Angeles building. The homeless person died just a month after homeless transgender man Amos Beede, who was brutally beaten to death in Vermont one month earlier. A staggering 22 of the reported U.S deaths were people of color, including 17 of my black transgender sisters. Internationally, the toll on our community also includes over 70 Latinx transgender people.
In these troubled waters, how does one mend a broken heart and remain steadfast to their mission? I turn to my faith, and then act. Singer-songwriter David Pomeranz wrote the lyrics:
“It’s in every one of us
To be wise
Find your heart
Open up both your eyes
We can all know everything
Without ever knowing why”
What could this cryptic message mean? Does it remind you of a cryptic book called the Bible? I love a good mystery. When nothing in life seems to make sense and my patience is tapped out, life has a wonderfully mysterious way of announcing, “Get up and keep going!”
Enter poet Robert Frost. If faith for me is the deep trust that good works for the community remain meaningful in spite of our losses, then Frost’s poem, The Road Not Taken guides my action. In the last stanza, he writes:
“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
As transgender people, we risk our lives everyday just to be ourselves. Our voices are creative and all inclusive because we are a microcosm of greater society. Our visibility is the light and reflection shining for humanity to heal. When we are threatened by loss, our light may dim and flicker, but never doubt the resilience of the transgender community. This week, let us continue to count ourselves among the living. Let us not cower in fear of those who are governed by hate and violence. Let us help each other up. Let’s keep going, travelling by a different path, and let’s see what happens!