TransGriot Note: Guest post from Jordana LeSesne, who is a survivor of a 2000 anti-trans hate crime attack on her in Ohio and the reason TransGriot exists. She writes her thoughts about this TDOR day.
On this day, 200 years ago, November 20, 1815 the Treaty of Paris was signed between France and Great Britain which formally ended the Napoleonic Wars and also called for the abolition of the slave trade.
On this day, November 20, 2015 the attention of many people around the world has again been focused on Paris exactly one week following a series of deadly terrorist attacks.
November 20 every year marks the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR). Those of you who have followed me for more than a year know how painful this day can be for me personally as well as for many people who have been the target of violence because who they are, their families and loved ones of the deceased.
Every year at TDOR ceremonies, a list of names of those killed around the world during the year is read by people in attendance and stories of who these people were are often shared as well.
I’ve taken part in TDOR ceremonies in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Seattle at one time or another. It is often those of us who survive who read the names of the dead.
The definition of terrorism according to Webster is: “the use of violent acts, terror as a means of coercion to frighten people or achieve a goal”.
Hate crimes directed at transgender people would seem to follow under that definition. That may sound strange to some of you but the chilling effect of the recent spike in violence directed at transgender people is much the same as that of a mass shooting or a bomb going off.
It induces fear in a community or people because they are targeted because of how they were born or who they are thus limiting their freedom, personal security and peace of mind.
In June the Advocate reported that anti-gay violence was down but transphobic hate crimes rose in 2014 by 13 percent pointing out that transgender women and particularly transgender women of color were most at risk of being victimized in these terroristic acts.
This is no shock to anyone who has attended a TDOR. Most often the photos displayed of those murdered are transgender women of color.
This is a reason why I prefer not to let the people who attacked me in Ohio in February of 2000 know my every look and every move on Facebook. They never saw a day in court much less a day in jail. They are still out there…. somewhere. The Kent Police Dept did not classify the crime as a hate crime, were reticent to do anything and they as well as the Portage County prosecutor in some cases were hostile to my and my family’s inquiries.
The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs says we’re not alone. In this report they found that more than 50% of survivors reported hate violence to the police, yet the police classified a
small percentage of reports as bias crimes; those who reported violence were met with police
hostility and excessive force. http://www.avp.org/…/R…/MEDIARELEASE_2014_NCAVP_HVREPORT.pdf
That’s why I left the country shortly thereafter.
That’s also why you don’t get to see me post a bunch of selfies on FB until such time as I am back on tour, making public appearances regularly (with bodyguard at the ready) and feel secure in doing so.
And when we are able to defend ourselves against our attacker(s) we are often treated worse than those who directed violence AGAINST us. This is why I feel the Free CeCe documentary I am scoring music for is so important. Had I been able to defend myself in Ohio I might also have landed in jail for doing so.
This year started off with a spate of murders of transgender women and reached proportions that author and commentator Janet Mock declared it a state of emergency.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the high incidence of suicide among transgender people (esp. transgender youth) as a closely related and every bit as important facet to the larger picture of hate induced violence against transgender people for reasons of transphobia both external and internalized. This recent article explains this better than anything I’ve ever read on the subject and I urge many of you who are not trans to read it: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/…/the-truth-about-transgend_b…
Look, I know that most of you don’t read my timeline for what you might view as “politics” but this is personal not political. Or if you must, “the personal IS political and the politics are personal”.
That doesn’t mean I will overwhelm you with this stuff but it also means you will hear more from me about it than I was comfortable talking about earlier in my career.
So to bring it back home to music you will find that this issue is one which drives me. I feel that survived the attempt on my life for a reason: To use what platform I have to say something meaningful and help others.
That goes beyond just making fun Drum ‘n’ Bass and other dance music I am mostly known for.
As I said that is why I am scoring the Free Cece film. That is one of the reasons I am collaborating with Julie Dstroy. That’s one reason I joined the Lumyn Collective to support other LBTIQ women in electronic music.
It simply is NOT worth the personal risk if I am out there and *not* also doing something meaningful and of substance beyond the beats and bass.
People grow and are changed by their experiences in life.
If that means labels are potentially put off well then so be it. I come from punk rock roots and have a metal mentality. I’ll find a way, I’m a survivor after all.
And I know that people who get it will and indeed have reached out.
Artists are often at their best when they translate their life’s experiences into their art. I hope that is the case with me as well.
I have no other option but to do just that. One of those works you may already have heard without knowing.
Back in February I began working on Resistencia (the “Untitled Work In Progress” on my Soundcloud) which addresses this issue using a series of news clips and lyrics. My friend Julia More (Juli Amore) was staying at my place and we talked about these issues and that’s when I began writing Resistencia. The Untitled instrumental on Soundcloud is absent the samples and vocals in the completed work.
I also began writing another song which I have yet to post but I felt that the lyrics were pertinent to this solemn day. You will find them below. Apologies if this was tl;dr hopefully this makes it worth it:
Song: 20 Novembre (State of Emergency)
One. two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine….
Count up to 20 and you still won’t approach the numbers
of these crimes.
This year, November 20, my fear and shedding more tears
for the victims, those who loved them and those who held them dear.
We did not chose this, no this chose us.
When the world seems armed against us who can we trust?
I repeat, we did not chose this, KNOW this chose us.
When the world is armed against you who can you trust?
Janet Mock said its a state of emergency.
THIS IS A STATE of EMERGENCY!
I said it is a state of emergency.
IT IS A STATE of EMERGENCY!
Everyone should feel a sense urgency.
As if this were a domestic insurgency.
As if this were a terrorist murder spree.
That targets you just because who you may be.
That’s how I feel every year, every November 20
Every name on the list had a value and dreams.
Lives ended prematurely and survivors in pain
On tour in Ohio I barely escaped the same.
Still numb. nerve damage from my lip to my chin.
A reminder of that night, every day I begin.
And pain has kept a lot inside because , but now I’m through
‘Til there are no more lists, I’ll speak my mind what else can I do?
‘Til justice, for us is not an exception but the rule.
‘Til there are no more November 20s will you help us too?
CeCe stood up, Sydney stood up,. we’re not alone.
And Shagaisha sung it out through a megaphone….