Sophie’s Penn State TDOR Speech

Sophie’s Penn State TDOR Speech

You are currently viewing Sophie’s Penn State TDOR Speech
wp header logo png

Hi folks! What follows is what I wrote for the Penn State Transgender Day of Remembrance, held on November 14th (as the students are on vacation till the 20th.) I knew I’d be addressing mostly a crowd of cisgender college students who are allies or were getting class credit for attending, so I wrote it aimed at them.

Despite the fact that the news and policies and losses should’ve left us numb or calloused our souls to the Pain, I offer the following trigger warnings: murder, suicide, death, history, and Hope. I also acknowledge my privilege as a person of white, western European colonizer ancestry, and that the land where I write this was once home to the Susquehannock people.

Tonight, we solemnly gather to honor our dead. We do this to remember not just those we will name tonight, but those whose names we will never know. How many transgender people died and were then misgendered by the police, doctors, reporters, and families? How many took their own lives never telling a soul about the pain that dysphoria inflicted upon their souls? How many homeless transgender teens search dumpsters for scraps of food as cisgender teens order an extra shot of espresso in their grande cappuccino?

The poet Lee Mokobe wrote that “Oncoming traffic is embracing more transgender children than parents.” Torry Peters wrote “If you are a trans girl who knows many other trans girls, you go to church a lot, because church is where they hold the funerals.”

Why? Why is gender non-conformity a mortal sin, punishable by ostracism, pain, and death? I ask for the 327 transgender and gender diverse people reported murdered worldwide. 95% of them were trans-feminine. 65% were people of color. Transrespect vs Transphobia Worldwide]. This hate is not new. Joan of Arc was burned at the stake on May 30, 1431 for wearing men’s clothing, which the Church referred to as “idolatry.” The Inquisition decided that there was not enough evidence to have her convicted of witchcraft. She was 19.

Bubba Copeland, the Republican mayor of Smiths Station, Alabama, pastor at Phenix City’s First Baptist Church, and father of three, shot himself in the head two weeks ago. They’d previously led their town through the aftermath of a tornado that killed 23 people.

Despite this, a far-right website revealed that they were also Brittini Blaire Summerlin, a transgender woman who posted photos and transgender erotica online. They begged the website not to do this, but, as always, the cruelty is the point, and they doxed Brittini anyway. Brittini was buried last Thursday.

Dark days. Transgender people face an onslaught of legislation like a biblical flood of hatred. The purveyors cover up their hate with names like “Protect children’s innocence act” and Protecting Children from Experimentation Act”, and “Productivity over Pronouns act.” We are called every name except child of God by far-right politicians who use us to scare people into donating.

Why? I don’t understand. I’ve studied this very question for the past four years and can quote the research, cite the sources, and discuss academic theories. I am considered an expert on the topic. But I am transgender. I don’t know what it means to be cisgender. Oh, I know what it means to pretend — I did that for 47 years. How does it feel to not think about gender constantly. How does it feel to not worry about your rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness disappearing during election day, or due to the death of a judge? Perhaps I just don’t understand the cisgender mind.

However… however… dark as these days may be, there is hope. As the Bard wrote “True hope is swift and flies with swallow’s wings.” [Richard III’ (1591) act 5, sc. 2, l. 23]. How do I know?

A friend of Bubba Copeland’s, who didn’t know about Brittini, wrote “I just want to ask you people who thought it humorous to publicly ridicule him, ‘Are you happy now?’ What crime did he commit? Some of you people make me sick. I hope you are really proud.” In the deep red south, an ally is forged. Allies. Friends.

And that is what we need to go on. If healing from these losses is possible, it will be helped along by friends and allies. Transgender people can be very resilient. After all, we’ve survived through the centuries, on the fringes, shunned or hiding. We have community, but to actually heal, we need outside help. We need people to understand one basic fact above all others: that we are human. That’s all- acknowledge our basic humanity. Let us live our lives without superfluous laws designed to inflict cruelty, and with the basic rights afforded to human beings.

Friends and allies can be hard to find, but we are finding them. We find them in the person who says “enough is enough!” or at least “I need to know more before I make a judgement.” We find them in people who extend their hand and say “let me help.” Most of all, we find them in YOU: this current generation. The generation of today has known transgender people most of their lives. They have transgender friends and relatives. They see positive transgender representation in movies, tv, and in books. For them, being transgender can be just another facet making up a person, not something to fear. These friends and allies join their voices to ours, lend us their strength when we need it, and vote out transphobic politicians.

You help us heal from the losses. You give us the strength to go on when everything seems bleak. You give us HOPE — the hope that some way, somehow, things will get better. You give us the hope that someday we will be accepted in society- that being transgender will be seen as no big deal, just another variety of people. That day may come, but only if we all want it, and work toward it together. Every vote, every voice raised in protest, every gathering can be another step forward. They can generate the hope someone needs to stay alive. As Cicero wrote “While there is life, there is hope.”

Sleep well brothers and sisters. May the four winds blow you safely home. We will take the baton and continue in your name.

Tags: , , ,

Category: Transgender Body & Soul


Leave a Reply

This site uses User Verification plugin to reduce spam. See how your comment data is processed.