Friday, November 20, 2015

Residents plan to mourn transgender murder victims to commemorate Transgender Remembrance Day

Posted By on Fri, Nov 20, 2015 at 2:52 PM

click to enlarge Elisha Walker of Rowan County was found dead in a "crude grave" in Johnston County, more than 100 miles from her home, in August. - COURTESY OF TIME OUT YOUTH
  • Courtesy of Time Out Youth
  • Elisha Walker of Rowan County was found dead in a "crude grave" in Johnston County, more than 100 miles from her home, in August.
While the city’s residents prepare to remember all they're thankful for in the coming week, members of the LGBTQ community and allies will be gathering in Uptown tonight to remember all those who won’t get the chance to celebrate the coming holidays because they've been lost to violence.

The Transgender Day of Remembrance has been celebrated throughout the country since 1999, when activist Gwendolyn Ann Smith created the day to memorialize Rita Hester, a transgender woman murdered in Allston, Massachusetts.

In recent years, organizers have commemorated the day with events in Charlotte, and will gather outside of city hall (the corner of North Davidson and 4th streets) to mourn the transgender people killed over the last year with a candlelit vigil tonight beginning at 6 p.m. 

Well-known genderqueer activist Jacob Tobia arrived in Charlotte this morning and will be the keynote speaker at the event. Tobia was recently featured as a subject in MTV’s reality docuseries True Life: I’m Genderqueer, and just this week Jezebel published a long-form Q&A with them.

For Parker Smith, transgender youth outreach organizer with Time Out Youth, tonight’s event will serve multiple purposes.

“To me, it is a time of mourning for us and at the same time it’s a call to action,” Smith said. “It’s a way to remind us that we have a very long way to go and still need to fight for those of us who are still alive.”

According to the Human Rights Campaign, at least 21 transgender people have been murdered this year in the United States, more than any other year on record. It is believed that at least 271 killings have happened worldwide, though many transgender killings aren’t reported as such.

In August, a 20-year-old transgender woman named Elisha Walker of Rowan County was found dead in a “crude grave” in Johnston County, more than 100 miles from her home. Twenty-three-year-old Latin King member Angel Arias was later arrested and charged with her murder.

When I asked Smith, who identifies as a non-binary transgender person, if they feel safe going out in the community, they raised the point of intersectionality and how it plays into safety.

“I think I am very lucky, because I do feel quite safe here, but to be very blunt that is because I’m not a trans woman and I am white,” Smith said. “The majority of the names on the list (of those killed) are trans women of color. For me, it’s not as much of an issue as for many of the trans women in this city.”

Lara Nazario, a local artist and musician who was also one half of Creative Loafing’s “Pride Power Couple” in August, also helped organize tonight’s event. She is a trans woman of color. Nazario said she is always aware of when it’s unsafe to be open about her identity.

“I always worry about passing because I never really feel fully safe and I’m always aware of where I am and what neighborhood I’m in,” she said. “I like to be open so I can educate people but at the same time there are tons of places where passing is definitely a privilege. I have to balance out how open I am and how much I take advantage of my ability to blend in.”

Organizers hope tonight can lead to a year or action in which transgender people are more recognized in Charlotte, which will lead to less vulnerability.

“I think going back to LGBTQ protections in the city of Charlotte, including the bathroom ordinance, is important,” Smith said. “Time Out Youth and other nonprofits continue to try to educate the community and try to give the support they need because there’s a lack of resources in this city and that’s one of the scariest things.”

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