The following article is based on a speech given at the November 20 Transgender Day of Remembrance in Canberra.
In 1995 a man named Brandon was assaulted in front of his girlfriend, and then later he was raped and murdered, along with his two housemates. The local police force did nothing. Men like Brandon didn't deserve an investigation, or justice.
Brandon was a transman.
An activist organisation called Transsexual Menace flew 40 people out to Brandon's home town in Nebraska. They held a candlelit vigil outside the police station and courthouse every night to draw attention to the injustices done to Brandon. They stayed until his killers were tried and found guilty of murder.
Transsexual Menace started holding vigils every time a transperson was murdered or killed by neglect. It demanded justice for our fallen brothers and sisters. As time went on, the number of deaths became too much for a volunteer organisation like Transsexual Menace to hold a separate vigil for each death.
In 1998 Remembering Our Dead was created, and the first International Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) was held on November 20.
This year is the tenth anniversary of TDoR, and it is the first year that the Australian government has recognised the event.
This year there have been 29 high-profile murders of transsexual people. That's more than two a month. Twenty-nine of our people dead! And that's only the ones we know about. Murdered for just being themselves and being different.
We have names to remember from Australia too. This year, in January, a young transwoman named Zoe Belle committed suicide. The eulogies were enough to make me wish I'd had the chance to meet her.
There have been several incidences of violence this year, unfortunately with our police force at the centre of the scandals. Brigitte Fell was outed as transsexual by police officers to her boyfriend, who then violently assaulted her.
TDoR is a day to remember our dead, but more importantly, it is a day to gather, and to say THIS MUST STOP. Today is not just a day for mourning. Grief without action is like a sword with no blade. The time has come for the transsexual community to stand united.
It is time to set aside our differences in self-expression. Do you think that Lawrence King's 15-year-old merderer cared if Lawrence was gay, transgendered, transsexual, or held some other gender variant identity? No, of course not. Lawrence was different, and for that he received the death penalty. Dead by the hand of his classmate.
TDoR should remind us that whatever our differences, no matter how much we try to assimilate into mainstream society or try to bend or break the gender binary, we are still at risk of violence and death.
That is why we must help each other. That is why we have to forget about calling each other names and invalidating each other's identities. That is why we must scream aloud at our government. We must demand that it protect us, and offers us the same human rights it gives the rest of the population.