Remember Those Who Have Fallen

Nakia Ladelle Baker died in January in Tennessee as a result of blunt force trauma to the head. Keittirat Longnawa was beaten by nine youths in Thailand, who then slit her throat. In March, Moira Donaire was stabbed five times by a street vendor in Chile. The body of Michelle Carrasco was discovered in a pit in Chile, her face unrecognisable. Ruby Rodriguez was found naked and strangled to death in the street in San Francisco. Erica Keel was repeatedly run over by a car in Pennsylvania. Bret T. Turner died from multiple stab wounds in Wisconsin. Victoria Arellano was refused HIV related medications in California. Oscar Mosqueda from Florida was shot. Maribelle Reyes from Texas was turned away from HIV treatment centres because she was transgender. In July an unidentified cross dressing male was found dead with gunshot wounds to the chest and lower back.
 
The roll call of transgender people who have been killed in the last twelve months is a harrowing one.
Australia has had its share of transgender violence over the years as well. In Northern Queensland, Ronald Brown, a sixteen year old cross-dresser was viciously stabbed and left to die. Gordon Tuckey was murdered in Sydney, Joanne Lillycrapp, who identified as a cross-dresser, was murdered in South Australia by two people she had stopped to help, while the death of Adel Bailey remains unsolved.

For the last nine years in dozens of cities around the world, November 20 has become a sobering reminder of the violence and danger that still exists in today’s world for transgender people. The Transgender Day of Remembrance is now in its ninth year, and it’s a day to remember those who have been killed as a result of anti-transgender hatred or prejudice.

It all started back on November 28th, 1998 when the murder of Rita Hesler sparked the Remembering Our Dead web project and a San Francisco candlelight vigil the following year. While her murder still remains unsolved, it was the catalyst for creating the day, which is not only a day of honouring those who have fallen, but also a day for shining a spotlight on a chilling underbelly of society that’s rarely otherwise discussed.

Jade Starr DreadcircusJade Starr, transgender rock singer from Dreadcircus Jade Starr (pictured), lead singer of the rock band Dreadcircus, is one transgender woman who is taking part in memorial events that are happening around the country.

“Sadly with transgender people the mainstream media will cover us about as much as someone jumping off a bridge. It just gets hidden and not discussed.”

Jade’s had her fair share of violent incidences since becoming a transgender woman.

“One morning in Sydney I was on my way to work and I was surrounded by a group of ethnic boys. One of them ran up from behind and punched me in the back of the head. I went down, more in shock, but the most insulting thing was that one of them kicked me and another one poured a bottle of chocolate milk over me while they all danced around chanting “freak, freak, freak”. Then they ran off.” Jade says that the humiliation only continued when she got to the police station and had to make a report. “The cops were kind of laughing at me ‘cos I stunk like rotten milk, and then I had to catch a bus home with my hair all matted. It was dreadful, but in the scheme of things I’m pretty lucky, I haven’t been threatened with my life yet. I don’t go to clubs because I just want to avoid that whole thing.”

Jade blames shows like Jerry Springer and the she-male porn industry for the negative image that transgender people have. “People think that all trannies are just chicks with big tits and dicks, that we have no soul, we have no interest in anything else but fucking and deceiving men. It’s so far from the truth. Sure, deception happens, but that’s only because people just want to be loved.”

While the transgender movement’s progress has been slow, Jade does think it’s moving forward.

“But within the transgender community itself I think it’s self destructing. Like any group of people there are factions that don’t understand each other. Within transgender there’s a massive umbrella – you have transsexuals who change gender and take hormones, you have cross dressers who just dress up for a sexual thrill on the weekend, you have drag queens who are gay men who do it for a job… there are so many conflicting ideas of what transgender means. That’s the biggest thing that holds us back, there’s all that in fighting. It’s almost like everyone within the community is still forming what we are, and how we need to present ourselves, and then within that, we also have to work out where we fit within the gay and lesbian community as well.”Jade’s rock band is her way of trying to counter-balance the negative perceptions that are out there. “I think honesty is the only way we’re gonna break down those stereotypes. Music is the best place to do it, everybody loves music, everybody’s got a certain song that makes them happy. What better place to shove it down people’s throats?”

Dreadcircus all began from a humble myspace page, which within two months had six hundred fans. “Now we’re on 5000 fans and 100,000 page views,” says Jade, “and the majority of my fans are straight.”

Jade urges everyone to get behind the day. “Come along and support something different – we’re fighting the good fight. It’s not just about trannies, the message is for everyone. Have a bit of consideration the next time you judge anybody on external appearances or what you’ve heard in the media. Give someone a chance before you condemn them.”

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