Is Someone Missing From Your Dinner Table?
by Leslie Fields-Cruz
When Transgender Day of Remembrance began in 1999, to memorialize the murder of Rita Hester in Alltson, Mass., it drew attention to a disturbing pattern that, sadly, has continued for more than two decades.
Since January of 2022, at least 32 transgender and gender nonconforming people have been killed in the U.S., and Black and Brown people remain disproportionately represented among those murdered. Meanwhile, the Human Rights Campaign reports that the U.S. saw “a shocking wave of anti-transgender legislation,” this year.
That is the context in which the horrific shooting took place at Club Q in Colorado Springs last weekend, taking five lives and injuring 18 others. I don’t know whether any of the victims at Club Q are transgender. I don’t know if the shooter intended to commit these crimes on the eve of the day of remembrance. But his actions must inspire justice-loving Americans coast to coast to do more than just stand by in silent mourning. Indifference and acquiescence are unacceptable when members of our communities are continually discriminated against, ostracized, abused, and killed simply because they are gender nonconforming.
BPM launched it’s Be HEARD: I Am Who I Say I Am campaign earlier this fall, because we recognize the urgent need for Black communities to shake off the shackles of homophobia and stand in solidarity against LGBTQI+ hatred, violence and terrorism.
We commissioned documentary filmmaker Sophia Clark to create the series of short films featuring Black people sharing their experiences of being Black, queer, and living in 21st Century America. Specifically, we wanted them to articulate why it is so important that people use the right pronouns when referring to gender nonconforming people. I’m proud to report that the series has been wildly successful since launching Oct. 6, and now lives on our website, YouTube Channel, Instagram, and other digital platforms.
So, as you celebrate the season of thanksgiving with family and friends, I hope you will pause to remember those we’ve lost to anti- LGBTQI+ violence. Share our Be Heard campaign and talk about your own experiences with pronoun usage, however clumsy. Most of all, embrace those you love who may be part of a targeted community and let them know that you stand with them. If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of gender nonconformance, then try truly listening to the people who are featured in I Am Who I Say I Am. These incredibly brave and generous storytellers: Jei, Brit, Sharon, and Dr. Maya, have opened their lives so that others might see, not only their humanity, but that of all marginalized people. Listening to their stories is an act of love, something this world desperately needs more of right now.
— Fields-Cruz is the executive director of Black Public Media