Speech at Remembrance Day 2012 in Amsterdam
Good evening everyone
For who does not know me, I am Vreer. I am a long time trans genderqueer community organizer here in Amsterdam and I am also speaking as a Steering Committee member for Transgender Europe.
Today is November 20, 2012. The fourteenth time that Transgender Remembrance Day is held. The seventh time in the Netherlands. Here it was started by then Queer Collective “The Noodles”, later on taken over by Transgender Network Netherlands. This is the first local edition, done by United Trans Activists for Change. Coming Saturday a national ceremony will be held in Groningen.
Since five years the number of victims of transphobic murders worldwide is counted. This is the work of the Transgender Europe project called “Transrespect versus Transphobia”. From the start of the counting we know of 1085 murders in countries all over the world. We also know this number of 1085, of whom 265 have been killed this year, is only the tip of the iceberg.
There is no country in thee world that really, concretely respects trans people as the human beings we are. In the Netherlands we only had two killings – that we know of: In July 2005 Irene Thumassangh got murdered at home in Amsterdam, by her ex-colleague who got convicted. April 2007 Harry/Henriëtte Wiersinga got attacked on Spui in The Hague and dies in the hospital of his/her injuries. The attacker got acquitted.
Many trans people live precarious lives, with high risks and dangers, like Irene. Others ware in the wrong time on the wrong place, like Harry/Henriette. Some die just because the “true sex” of their sex partner/lover that they panicked and beat them up with a fire extinguisher. As happened Angie Zapata from Greeley Colorado. We won’t forget you Angie. As happened to Brandon Teena, from Humboldt Nebraska, who is one of the few trans men among the victims. We don’t forget you either Brandon. Others here may have reminiscence of different victims.
Many times the most cruel and atrocious killings befall us. Us as gender variant people, because this is not only about trans* and in that sense it is very fitting to be at the Homomonument.
We see it in South Africa where lesbians are killed in very personal ways, where they are submitted to “corrective rape” as the perpetrators call it.
We saw it in 2009 with Jorge Steven Lopez in Cayey, Puerto Rico. Only 19 years old, his killers decapitated him, dismembered him, and set his remains on fire.
We see it in Turkey where most have to do sex work to survive and if they are lucky only get fined for walking in the street. If they are unlucky they get stabbed or shot.
We see it here, where you get scolded or beaten up if you are too feminine for a man or too masculine for a woman. Where trans people still get ridiculed and have to pass through a mental health diagnosis to get recognition – and not as trans* but as wrongly embodied man or woman.
The recent report by the Netherlands Institute for Social Research shows it is a long way to go before we reach equality with the mainstream population. Now trans people commit ten times as often suicide attempts as the non LGBT population; have four times less a job, are more often poor and with a high education at the same time.
If you happen to be a person of color or have a disability and you are trans*, life often is even worse. Trans people find themselves between thee same rock and a hard place as many other non- standard people and that has little to do with the crisis. It has far more to do with this patriarchal and capitalist society that is actively constructed to exclude Others, who do not belong to the idealised gay or straight but mostly white ‘majority’.
Transgender Remembrance Day began with the murder of Rita Hester on November 28, 1998, and the pickets around the death of Chanelle Picket 20th of November 1995 that sparked a series of actions. The first murders that led to actions were black American trans women. Still it is the case that as a poor African American trans woman engaged in sex work – living among the outcasts – you run a very high risk of getting killed. Or beaten up for that matter. Native American and Alaskan natives in the US run an even higher risk as members of an ethnic minority. In other countries the indigenous population is also overly represented among the victims of transphobia. Extreme transphobia works together with racism.
In some countries it gets better. The Netherlands will get better legislation for trans people. Most probably not good enough, but still way better. More countries are getting legislation at all for gender recognition. With Ireland stalling and stalling .. almost all recently joined countries in the EU have some form of gender recognition, but Ireland has none and is not willing to have decent legislation. But the best example comes from Argentina where you practically can walk up to the civil registry and announce your gender wish to getit granted (as long as it is male or female). And your right to trans specific health care is guaranteed. We hope and fight that soon the world will be a better place for all of us “deviant” people. After all:
All the freaky people make the beauty of the world.