Over the past few days, vigils have been held for Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado, 19, and Jason Mattison, Jr., 15, the most recent victims of bias crimes. Jorge’s His murderer claimed that when he picked Jorge up, he thought he was a woman; however upon discovering Jorge was biologically male, the man went into a rage. It was a rage so violent that the attacker was burned, decapitated, and dismembered Jorge. Cause of death? HATE.
Jason Mattison, Jr.’s death was no less graphic. After his body was found, it was discovered that he had been raped, gagged with a pillowcase, stabbed repeatedly in the head and throat before his murderer shoved his dead body back into the closet we all struggle so hard to be free of.
My local vigil occurred just days after the Transgender Day of Remembrance observance where we remembered the over 130 known trans and gender queer people murdered to date in 2009. As a stood with the small crowd, I let my eyes wonder over each persons face. The faces full of sorrow, rage, hurt and perhaps realization. A realization that they are among the lucky ones, the survivors. While some of those present had been attacked, they had survived, but it could have been any of us being immortalized by the candlelight. It even could have been me.
Perhaps that is why only a handful gathered in San Antonio for the vigil? Perhaps we aren’t ready to confront our own mortality and the possibility that it “could have been me?” Perhaps we are lossing the battle because of our fear? I can’t pretend to know the answer, but I do know this – I will never let them shove me back into a closet.