22 November 2011
For Shelley Hilliard And Her Mother On The Transgender Day Of Remembrance
The other day was the Transgender Day of Remembrance. Actually, ceremonies and vigils are being held this week in a variety of venues. But some of the bigger, and longer-running, ones were held on Sunday. As it happens, I attended one after bike riding with Lakythia and Mildred.
For those of you who are new to this blog, or things having to do with transgenders, the Day of Remembrance began in 1998 after the murder of Rita Hester in the Boston suburb of Allston. On the Day of Remembrance, we do not only mourn our dead; as the name indicates, we keep the memory alive of those who've been killed for their gender identity or expression.
Now, some would argue that we're elevating our victims over others who aren't transgendered. It's true that all murders are horrific tragedies; I would even go as far as to say (actually, to echo someone I deeply respect) that there is no way to justify killing another human being. Killings are often rationalized, but that is not the same: Coming up with a logical reason for something does not equal justice. And, I would argue, if you believe in a supreme being or even a force beyond yourself, you have to come to the conclusion that human beings can't achieve justice. But I digress.
The reason why we need to remember transgender victims in particular--and treat our murders and beatings as hate crimes--is that when we are killed or beaten to within an inch of our lives, more often than not, our perpetrators have targeted us because we are transgendered. Because we are so targeted, our murders tend to be particularly gruesome: It's not unusual for investigators--including those who are Armed Forces combat veterans-- to say that our murders are the most grisly they've ever seen.
Such was the case of a victim whose name I read at the vigil I attended. Shelley Hilliard was only nineteen years old when she was decapitated and dismembered, and her body burned, in her hometown of Detroit. Her body was found on 23 October. The police could not make a positive ID; that task fell to her mother.
Nearly any mother will tell you that the worst thing she can imagine is losing her child. It's hard to imagine a much worse way of dying than the one Shelley suffered, so I can only imagine what was going through her mother's mind and spirit when she had to identify her daughter's body.
I would hope that other parents would support us as allies if for no other reason that they wouldn't want their children to meet such a fate. And I want to remember Shelley Hilliard for the same reasons I've made it a point to remember Amanda Gonzalez-Andujar, Gwen Araujo and other transgenders who were murdered: Nobody should die the way they died, for the reasons they died, as young as they died. If they've gone anywhere after this life, I hope that they'll have the opportunity they didn't have in this life: I hope they will have the chance to grow into, and with, their beauty.