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The Question After the Vigils: Who’s Next?

November 23, 2009 By: jaysays Category: Commentary, Featured, Thought of the Gay

Hate Crimes Vigil - San Antonio, TexasOver 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.

Transgender Day of Remembrance and Ms. Lauryn Farris

November 20, 2009 By: Lauryn Category: Featured, LGBT Heroes Project

Transgender Day of Remembrance 2009A note from Jay: When I first met Lauryn Farris a few months ago, we quickly began discussing having her contribute at jaysays.com.  Today, as she states, is indeed an appropriate day to introduce herself to our readers and friends.  It is my great honor to have her contribution to the our little project known as jaysays.com and I look forward to learning from her vast experience and knowledge.  She is a truly an LGBT hero.

What an appropriate day for me to do my first blog on jaysays.com.  Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance.  It is a day that we pause to remember those that have been taken from us only for being different.  On the 19th the San Antonio Gender Association along with the MCC San Antonio sponsored our Observance.

It was a wonderful service.  Reverend Mick Hinson did the lighting of the candle and introduction to the reading of the names.  Michelle Burnett sang as did the Dignity Choir.  The music was as from the voices of angels.  After we had read names and lit candles I addressed the group with a few words that included the opportunity for each member of our group to introduce themselves and make a few comments.

The theme for the night was Remembering, Celebrating, and Hoping.  My remarks were about youth, and about standing together to make a difference.  It was focused on all of us standing together, those in the LGBT community and those who stand with us.   I invited people to remember that it is love not hate we celebrate.  I have included the text of the homily below.

There were about 75 people in attendance.   This was a very nice start to an annual service that we hope will grow.  It would have been nice to have more but we had a wonderful loving group.

As a broader introduction of myself I am currently president of the San Antonio Gender Association, co-chair of the HRC Religion and Faith committee and involved in many activities throughout the community.  I look forward to writing more and Jay is one of the sweetest people I have ever met.  If Jay will let me I will have another blog next week about family and what a blessing it is to be the T in LGBT.

Text of Homily:

Thank you to the MCC church, reverend Hinson and all of those that have assisted the San Antonio Gender Association in planning and presenting this Transgender Day of Remembrance.

Remembering, Celebrating and Hope.  We are gathered here tonight with this theme and I want to take just a moment to reflect on each part of Remembering – Celebrating – and Hope.  I am placing a special emphasis on youth, so many of those we have lost were so young, and our hope for the future is also with our young people.

Remembering – we ask a blessing for each of the names that were read, and for those unknown who suffered and died at their own hand – or the hands of others – so needlessly.  We remember God’s covenant to not destroy us through a rainbow.  We pray that we are nearing the time of another special rainbow when we remember this brutality of hate only through history.

In Puerto Rico, there is no rainbow these days.  We remember 19 year old Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado whose body was discovered November 14.  Jorge was openly gay and had been decapitated, dismembered and burned.  The investigator said that “people who lead this lifestyle need to be aware that this will happen.”  Jorge is an example of the violence brought to the entire LGBT community.  Let us remember, however, that love not hate is the answer.  Let us remember the beauty of the person and not their horrific death.  Most of all let’s remember what God tells us in Hebrews 6:10

He will not forget what you have done. He will remember the love you have shown him. You showed it when you helped his people. And you show it when you keep on helping them.

E. B. White of Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little fame said, “I arise in the morning torn between a desire to save the world and a desire to savor the world.” That makes it hard to plan the day.”

For many of us life would be easier if we just lived it, and lived hidden in plain sight.  For most of us instead it has been a desire to help save the world that we have chosen.  We know the difficulties we will face, but we know that we are not alone.  We celebrate the example that many we are remembering have given us, live authentically, genuinely and proudly as who we were created to be.  I am PROUDLY a transgender woman who stands today to celebrate the lives of those who have gone before me.  I also stand to celebrate those who stand with me, because they choose to out of love.

10 year old Will Phillips has chosen sit during the Pledge of Allegiance because justice for all does not include everyone.  Will and his parents are all “straight”.  They recognize and celebrate the lives of those who have been taken simply because they were different.  They have chosen to raise Will in an environment of inclusion, we celebrate our fallen brothers and sisters and we celebrate those who stand with us for love.

We remember those that have fallen and we celebrate their authentic lives so that we will create a world of greater Hope for the future.  We cannot lose another generation.  I am here before you today because my own son asked “what are you going to do?”  With hope and love in my heart I ask you “what are you going to do?”  I pray that you will all join me in sharing the belief that we have hope for the future.  And, that you will remember those we have lost and celebrate their lives by living authentically and genuinely with hope.  Most of all that you will STANDUP and STANDOUT.

Transgender Day of Remembrance 2009 – the Exclusion Question Answered

November 20, 2009 By: jaysays Category: Commentary, Thought of the Gay

Transgender Day of Remembrance 2009This year, I attended the Transgender Day of Remembrance ceremony at the Metropolitan Community Church (“MCC”) in San Antonio, Texas.  The services were planned and hosted by the San Antonio Gender Association (“SAGA”) with the chapel being provided by the MCC.  Ms. Lauryn Farris, President of SAGA, told those present that it was a celebration of remembrance and of hope.

Ms. Farris spoke of the words of E.B. White:

I wake up each morning torn between a desire to save the world and a desire to savor the world.

She went on to explain that Transgender Day of Remembrance was the “most important day” of the year for our trans brothers and sisters.  I took a moment to glance around the chapel, noting that several pews were empty.  The absence of the LGB community was noticeable and heartbreaking. Perhaps they decided it was their day to savor the world rather than reach out to help save it?

However, I recall the hundreds upon hundreds of LGBT people gathered for pride celebrations this past June, enough people to have turned the small chapel into a standing room only establishment, overflowing itself out into the streets.

I remember several community events over the past year that had members of SAGA present, standing soundly next to their friends and LGB family as we demanded marriage equality.  I watched one transgender woman stand before a group of 150 or so angry LGB people after the passage of Proposition 8 in California and explain the importance of a united voice, but those 150 people weren’t there on that MOST important day for our transgender friends.

Finally, a question for me was answered.  When people speak of exclusion, it is not about excluding them from our movement, it’s about excluding ourselves from theirs.  We must do better.

So now, I ask you my LGB brothers and sisters – who will you stand for other than yourself?  Will you go to your local gender association meeting and offer to help?  Can you spare some change or dollars to help them out?  Will you?

In honor of Transgender Day of Remembrance, and with help from wonderful web resources such as transgenderdor.org, I prepared the following video slide show: