Living Authentically In West Hollywood

TransGriot Note: This op-ed by TPOCC founder Kylar Broadus was originally published by the WeHo News

As I flew into Los Angeles for the first ever trans people of color
town hall and the thirteenth annual Transgender Day of Remembrance
(TDOR), a time to honor the memory of those whose lives were lost due to
anti-transgender violence, I had no idea what was happening 30,000 feet
below me.

When I landed on the ground, I immediately heard that a trans woman of
color, 32-year-old Cassidy Vickers, had been murdered. Another victim
had been shot at (but not harmed) in nearby Plummer Park.

Ironically, Plummer Park was where the TDOR event was to be held on Sunday, November 20. 

Sadly, it had only been less than a week since I had been on a
conference call with folks in Detroit in response to the brutal murder
of yet another trans woman, Shelley Hilliard, who at 19 years old life
was just beginning.

In light of these senseless murders, it is common for misplaced blame
to fall on the victims.  But no one deserves to die in this way.  

All people, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation, deserve dignity and respect as a human being.  Someone should not be a target because they live their life authentically.

According to a recent report released by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs trans
people of color are disproportionately impacted by LGBT hate crimes,
with trans women constituting 44% of LGBT hate crime victims in the past
year, and people of color constituting 70% of the victims.

These statistics are just the tip of the iceberg.  As reporting of
these crimes has gotten better, law enforcement and the media are
beginning to identify our gender identity correctly.

Identification of who we are is important because it raises awareness and fuels tolerance.

Unfortunately, there still remains much work to be done. Often times
missing trans people are never reported by family members who have
rejected them.

I am certain there are many of us in the morgue or whose bodies have
never been found and go unaccounted for. In fact, most of these cases go
unsolved.

In addition to being more susceptible to violence than other groups,
trans people of color are denied employment, education, homes,
healthcare, and access to shelters, hospitals and simple things such as
riding the bus or getting identification. These obstacles put our community at greater risk of being victimized.
All people need access to these basic structures of society in order to
survive.

Despite all the work that lies ahead us, I am hopeful.

At the West Hollywood Transgender Day of Remembrance ceremony, it was
encouraging to see community, government and law enforcement work hand
in hand towards solving this problem.

It was extremely moving to see that the City Council of West Hollywood was there in force and offered support.

It was impressive that the Council has an appointed body of trans
leaders that are empowered to work all year to address these issues and
concerns.  This kind of commitment must be present from our government officials.
The showing of solidarity by law enforcement was also unprecedented.

While some of us may not have had positive experiences with law
enforcement in our life, the presence of law enforcement officials was
powerful.  It felt as if they had lost one of their own.  The concern
and emotions the officers had were almost palpable.

The event was deeply moving.  From the performances to the speeches,
each moment was a tribute to those that we have lost and a call to make
sure this does not continue.  There was such a diverse gathering of
people and an immense sense of unity.  It was my honor to be a part of
it.

TDOR in West Hollywood was a promising example of how everyone from the
local community, government officials and law enforcement must work
together.

The message must be sent that there is zero tolerance for these
senseless acts—from the use of anti-transgender slurs to workplace
harassment, bullying in schools and family rejection of our youth.

These all have the potential to fuel hostility and lead to violence, in
some cases murder. When our society rallies together to raise awareness
and ensure that the trans community receives equal protections, the
message will be clear: transgender equality is about everyday people who
want the same chance as everyone else to earn a living, be safe in
their communities, be safe in their schools, and take care of the ones
they love.

It will take a combination of education, laws and policies to even
begin to scratch the surface of addressing these horrific tragedies.

All these pieces must work in tandem.  We must each do our part.

***

Kylar W. Broadus is founder of Trans People of Color Coalition (TPOCC), the only national organization dedicated to social justice for trans people of color (TPOCC).

We are here to provide visibility and a voice for all trans people of
color. We do advocacy and education to promote the empowerment of trans
people of color.

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