From Del. Danica Roem:
For the first time today, Virginia officially recognizes Nov. 20 as Transgender Day of Remembrance. That’s the product of my resolution HJ 85, which we passed earlier this year.
#TDOR memorializes trans people killed around the world, including Noony Norwood of RVA (11/6/16), India Monroe of Newport News (12/21/16) and Ebony Morgan of Lynchburg (7/2/17).
Before I go into how we actually got TDOR recognized in Virginia, let’s first take a moment to reflect on the meaning of why we do this every year.
As the TDOR.info notes, the whole point of today is to honor those lost to anti-transgender violence. To understand this brutality, understand intersectionality: racism, xenophobia, transphobia, homophobia, sexism and poverty. More than 3/4 of trans people murdered in the U.S. are Black trans women. We’ve also seen a horrific rise in murders on Puerto Rico.
The first recorded murder of an out trans person in 2020 happened hours into New Year’s Day when Dustin Parker, a white trans man, was shot and killed in his taxi. All of these murders aren’t the product of a society that loves trans people too much.
After my ’17 election as the first out-and-seated trans state legislator in the U.S., I knew *anything* LGBTQ related I put my name to in ’18 would be politicized, so my classmate Del. Debra Rodman was so kind to introduce the first TDOR resolution. But the Republican Speaker of the House – chairman of the Rules Committee – refused to even bring up Del. Rodman’s TDOR resolution. HJ 141 died without a hearing.
During the Speaker’s watch, the majority killed almost every LGBTQ equality bill/resolution/amendment from ’18-’19. The only one we passed (63-36 House/28-12 Senate) was Del. Rip Sullivan’s HB 1979 (Jacob’s Law) for gender-neutral surrogacy laws. The Republicans debated amongst themselves over whether the bill was sufficiently “pro-life.” The Speaker voted against it. Our Democrats all voted for it.
When our Democratic majorities took over in 2020, we passed more pro-LGBTQ equality bills in one year than the previous 400 years of the Virginia state legislature’s existence combined since the Virginia House of Burgesses started in 1619. That included trans-specific bills:
*Banned health insurers from discriminating against trans people (HB 1429)
*Created standards for keeping trans students safe (HB 145 / SB 161)
*Added non-binary ID markers (SB 246);
*Eliminated the surgical requirement for correcting birth certificates (HB 1041/SB 657);
*Required school dress codes to “maintain gender neutrality by subjecting any student to the same set of rules and standards regardless of gender” (HB 837); and
*Recognizing Nov. 20 each year as Transgender Day of Remembrance (HJ 85).
Those are along with myriad LGBTQ equality legislation we passed – the Equal Rights Amendment included.
Aside from HJ 85, what does any of that have to do with TDOR?
They begin to answer the question about what are we doing, as elected officials, to stop anti-trans violence by addressing the most basic premise: simply recognizing that trans people exist and need to be protected.
All of this I mentioned and didn’t mention that add gender identity to every section of Code addressing non-discrimination is good and the product of a lot of activists working for years to enact it. Yet we still have *so much* more legislation – and funding – to pass.
Legislation, executive orders, agency changes, local ordinances; all of these are positive. All need to continue because when our laws reflect the humanity and dignity of the people, they set the tone for how people view and interact with each other.
Making society “less worse” for people is not making it better. We can’t look at where we are now just from the prism of when our government officials enabled the devastation to our community by ignoring and even exacerbating the AIDS crisis and say, “Isn’t this better?”
We have to look at the future as it relates to the present. Where can we go that makes tomorrow more just than today? How do we advance our goals of liberation, justice, equity and equality beyond a status quo that is fatal for so many Black and Brown trans women in our society?
Preventing the murder of trans people in our country and the world begins with laws that reflect the recognition of our most basic humanity – our right to survive and our right to exist. For those women I mentioned in the second paragraph, the system failed them. Society failed them.
But we can change our society for the best by showing up.
On Election Day in Nevada, the electorate voted overwhelmingly to amend its constitution to repeal anti-marriage equality text and replace it with pro-marriage equality text. As more of us are vulnerable enough to be visible, the more society changes. Our courage changes minds.
If it seems hopeless: our people at Stonewall fought against impossible odds to begin a worldwide liberation movement. Its work continues.
Too many people who are just like us have died for us not to care.
We have to care. We have to lead from the front and be the change we seek.