Transgender Day of Remembrance inspires reflection

After years of disrespect, shoddy reporting and at times downright abusive coverage of trans issues, today, of all days, feels like a good day for the press – and the UK media in particular – to up its game. To note that this, the 20th November is a day when the world’s growing trans community stops for a moment to remember its dead.

Or failing that, to forego printing yet another piece that subtly mocks, either because we are such “funny creatures”, and therefore deserving of mockery – or worse, humiliates, embarrasses and sometimes endangers because those reporting trans stories just couldn’t care less. Its just another story and the fact that stories about trans men and women have led to violence, to murder are just unfortunate by-products of the way things are.

History of the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR)

Now in its 13th year, the TDOR was originally created in 1998 by Gwendolyn Ann Smith, a transgender graphic designer, columnist, and activist, to commemorate the murder of Rita Hester in Allston, Massachusetts.

In 2010, TDOR ceremonies of one form or another were held in almost 200 cities in 20 countries across the world. This is a time when the trans community comes together, in solemnity and in celebration, to remember its dead.

Trans crime statistics

Statistics compiled by Trans Murder Monitoring suggest that somehwere in the world, every 72 hours, a trans man or woman is murdered. The absolute numbers are small: but if any other group in society was being killed off at quite such a rate, there would be a global outcry.

Many of these killings are located in South America: but to attempt to use murder alone as a measure of trans abuse – to argue, as the Daily Express did, just one year ago, that because there had been no homophobic murders reported, this was a non-issue – is simply sick.

As anyone working closely with the UK trans community will know, for some, just surviving is an achievement. Last month alone delivered its quota of shocking stories: trans men and women attacked, hospitalised – or just too afraid to leave their house, as a result of bigotry.

As a result of bigotry in part inspired by the press.

The role of the Press

There is not enough time here to detail the extent of press culpability on this issue. One simple story should suffice. Early on 16 November, news agency Reuters circulated an outwardly respectful narrative, initially published “straight” (without picture). A little later in the day, however, it had gained a powerful and grainy image by way of illustration: a picture of a transgender prostitute working the streets of Tegucigalpa.

That really doesn’t help.

Even when they think they are being sympathetic, the press seem incapable of taking their collective heads out of the gutter.

Apology – and Petition

I won’t be in London to commemorate this year’s Transgender Day of Remembrance: bit of a cock-up on the child-minding front, and whilst i am happy to bring the boy along, i suspect he isn’t up to what he would see as a load of boring grown-up stuff.

But i will be there in spirit.

Meanwhile, therefore, I am putting up a petition to ask the press, today of all days, to respect the sensibilities of the trans community. In the UK, to ask especially those tabloids and mid-market papers that get so excited about groups disrespecting poppy day to demonstrate a similar degree of respect for today’s day of remembrance.

That is all.

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