This year we have celebrated so many anniversaries – the 50th anniversary of the March in Washington, the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination but one anniversary that caught my attention was the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysberg Address.
As I listened to the stories and words surrounding this landmark address I thought in some ways we are still fighting this same battle.
On this Transgender Day of Remembrance I am reminded that we still are struggling to have that nation Lincoln spoke of some 150 years ago, a “nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all” individuals, all persons, each of us are created equal.
Although there has been some progress for women and African Americans, the LGBTQ community is still engaged in a great civil war for equality.
This is our war, but sadly, too many of the victims covering the landscape of our battlefield are our Transgender brother and sisters.
From the princess boys and prince girls being excluded from schools, forced to wear clothes to conform and being bullied; To the young people still being thrown out of their homes, living on the streets, targets for violence; To the sisters and brothers whose hearts pound every time they enter a public bathroom, are forced to show ID at traffic stops, for employment, even to vote.
To our elders in nursing homes who are often put in situations where their true gender identity is ignored and at a time when they are most vulnerable are again forced to conform.
To those we remember today who have been victimized, brutalized, murdered by assailants who often get a “get out of jail card” simply because their victim was transgendered.
And to those, whose stories we will never know, whose passing will not make the papers, who – no longer able to withstand the irrational hatred, the transphobia not only in the community at large but often in our gay community as well – take their own lives.
Yes, we have come a long way as a community a gay community. –Don’t Ask Don’t Tell has been repealed, The Supreme Court found the defense of Marriage Act Unconstitutional, Same Sex- couples can get married in 15 states, a fully inclusive ENDA is the Senate, human rights ordinances are passing in municipalities across the country and state but as we remember our sisters and brothers lost, since the Transgender Day Of Remembrance started in 1997with over 250 names on this year’s list alone, we must never forget that our struggle for equality is far from over.
Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said “no one is free until we are all free.” To that I would add no one is equal until we all are equal.
I have a dream of the day when there are no new lists of names on Transgender Day Of Remembrance, when we recognize that who a person is not limited by this physical shell but by the unlimited spirit within.
I have a dream of the day when we come together on this Transgender Day Of Remembrance to remember and celebrate these lives, these martyrs – for we must never forget their deaths and sacrifices – because of hatred and intolerance.
Today the world gives little note, to the lives we remember here tonight. Their stories are buried deep within the pages of the media.
Our tears are unnoticed, our losses misunderstood but we can and never will forget who they were, how they lived, how they died and how much they mattered to us – their community.
It is for us the living to be dedicated to the unfinished work of full equality for the T as well as the LGB.
As Lincoln said some 150 years ago “It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.”
Tonight I stand here not as an ally not as a member of the gay community but as a member of the transgender community for we are all one.