By Nadika Nadja
November 20 is the Transgender Day of Remembrance.
Let’s focus on the last word, if you don’t mind?
There’s an International Women’s Day, and International Men’s Day, an International Talk like a Pirate Day, and even an International Peanut Butter Day. But Transgender people, and those who do not conform to the gender binary, only get a day of remembrance. That, people, is a problem.
How many trans* (the asterisk represents all gender identities under the trans umbrella) people there are in the world is a statistic that changes constantly, and there is no clear definition of who exactly is trans*. Many transgender people live lives in deep stealth, afraid to come out, afraid to assert their gender and their rights, afraid that transphobia will mean their death, or at the very least, a completely diminished life.
The Transgender Day of Remembrance, or #TDoR was first observed in 1998, following the murder of Rita Hester, a trans woman in San Francisco. The day has grown to be one of acknowledgement the world over, when trans and gender diverse people whose lives have been lost to hate crimes and violence, are remembered and honored.
Since then, and despite TDoR, every year, more and more trans people have been murdered or have taken their own lives in despair and depression. A chilling statistic shows that up to 41 percent of trans* identified people in the US have attempted or committed suicide.
Such statistics are, sadly, missing in India. Despite a long history of gender fluidity and a culture that has some recognition of non-binary identities, Indian society by large, discriminates against trans* people. Transwomen and Hijra women are ostracized, trying to eke out a living on the fringes of a society that sees them as not worthy of basic human decency. Transmen face a deeply patriarchal society that negates even their existence, forcing them into violent marriages or conversion therapies.
More, transwomen and transmen in India are subject to sexual assault and hate crimes. In January of 2015, a transwoman from Telengana, Pravallika, was brutally murdered. The person accused of the crime is out on bail, even as other transwomen have lost their lives to hate.
In the US, over 21 transwomen of colour have been killed, in just 2015. These are not isolated incidents, but an epidemic of hate and violence that, at its core, aims to deny and oppress people who dare to transcend the gender binary and assert their identities and lives.
While we are alive, we do not get a day to celebrate our lives and identities, while we are alive we do not get a day to say hello, come learn about us, we’re just like you except different. What we get is a day in which we try and honour the memory of those who’ve died over the years, trying to live, trying to exist, when the world denies them and negates them.
The Transgender Day of Remembrance is a deeply moving, significant day that ought not, should not exist but for hate and transphobia.
Nadika is a non-binary (gender), non-binary (sexual orientation) person based in Chennai. She writes and edits for a living, and tweets @nadjanadika