I don’t often post for Transgender Day of Remembrance, although it’s certainly something that I think about. So here’s a story.
It turns out that three people from my circle in college have come out as trans now. But that had yet to happen in 1999. And 1999 was when one of the first out transgender folks who I knew, Tacy Ranta, was murdered. We weren’t close, or even friends. But we were involved in the same organization, and certainly knew each other by sight and said hello.
I’m not sure it was ever clear if it was specifically a hate crime or not. But it had that weight and reverberation. It was just a year after Matthew Shepard’s murder in 1998, and that was just a year after Ellen DeGeneres came out on national TV in 1997 (for those who are too young to know, this was a big deal). The queer communities that I was a part of were holding a difficult tension of fear and hope all the time.
My girlfriend and I were spit on walking down the street. My family did not embrace my coming out, and thought I was going to hell. Lots of people with less privilege than me were in much scarier situations.
And yet there was joy and norming of queer experience happening all the time in so many spaces. And I was leaving a job at the ACLU of Maryland, which had just successfully gotten the state sodomy law overturned. And on my way to work for one of the oldest and largest LGBTQ+ organizations in the country. We were demonstrating in DC at the Lincoln Memorial for same sex marriage. There was change and hope afoot.
I don’t think about Tacy often. But the weight of that shock, and the grief in my community stayed with me. And while I see all the ways that my privileged world changes for the better in my liberal bubble, I still hold fear that something could happen to someone I love just because of others hated and bigotry. Whether it’s my dearest college friend, or my former spouse, or former colleagues, or dear friends and helpers or the trans kids of my friends.
You, they, we, all matter. We should all get to be safe in this world living the full expression of whoever we are with as much sunlight as we choose.