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Transgender Day of Remembrance

Today's post is from Matt Kailey, a transsexual man and an award-winning author, blogger, and community leader, as well as a nationally recognized speaker and trainer on transgender issues. He is the author of Just Add Hormones: An Insider’s Guide to the Transsexual Experience (Beacon Press), a Lambda Literary Award finalist. This post originally appeared on his blog, Tranifesto.

Matt kaileyAs International Transgender Day of Remembrance grows near, it appears that this year will, unfortunately, be no different from years before – we will be adding names to the list right up until the actual memorial services take place.

Our society reinforces these heinous acts of violence in many ways – through misogyny, institutionalized racism, and second-class citizenship for trans people, along with a generalized violent ideal that permeates the culture itself. The causes are many, the solutions must be many, and change is slow to arrive. There appears to be nothing on the horizon to indicate that we will not be holding TDORs for many years to come.

But there are steps we can take to reach people, and the sooner in life we reach them, the better. I support education on sexual orientation and gender identity beginning in elementary school and woven naturally into the topics of study, so that LGBT and queer people are seen as equal contributors in every area of life. I support LGBT and queer teachers and administrators being out with no threat of losing their job, and with education and training for straight and non-trans school personnel. And I support LGBT and queer functions and organizations at every school. But I don’t kid myself that this is going to happen anytime soon, or even in my lifetime.

However, I’m buoyed by some of the things that are happening at Red Rocks Community College, where I teach part-time. As with many colleges, Red Rocks has an LGBT student organization that is responsible for putting on various events throughout the year. The college also has out LGBT faculty (including myself), staff, and students.

Last week, I attended a Rainbow Registration event, designed to introduce students to LGBT and LGBT-friendly instructors and allow them to sign up for these particular instructors’ classes if they wanted to, in subjects ranging from psychology to math, and from composition to foreign languages. For many LGBT students, just knowing that their instructor is also a member of that community, or supportive of that community, makes all the difference.

This year’s Transgender Day of Remembrance event will feature a panel made up solely of the school’s trans instructors and students (or I should say “instructor and students,” since I’m the only trans instructor at the school). The purpose of the panel is to educate students about TDOR and about trans people, and some instructors are offering extra credit for their students who attend.

Red Rocks is not unique in this regard. There are plenty of other college campuses planning memorials and other TDOR educational activities, and there are plenty of other colleges that support LGBT and queer faculty, staff, and students. But there are plenty more who do not. And it is this type of education and visible support that sends open-minded students out into the world – students that might one day be influential in changing laws and policies that affect trans people.

7959This kind of atmosphere and these kinds of programs are not just the purview of colleges and universities. Trade schools, apprentice programs, online training programs, high schools (when they are allowed to) and, of course, businesses of all kinds can adopt a welcoming attitude and incorporate a variety of educational resources and events into the fabric of their organizational culture. In fact, schools, businesses, and local government entities are usually way ahead of the federal government on these types of issues, and these local venues are generally where the real changes are taking place.

So as we enter this very solemn week, I’m not going to offer platitudes of optimism – not when we have recently seen several horrendous incidents of violence against trans women, and when, statistics tell us, we will probably see at least one more over the next few days.

But I am going to say that there is some hope out there for the future, however minimal it might seem right now. There is the possibility for change, however far away it might appear right now. And hope might seem even more tangible when we hear what is going on in the readers’ schools, organizations, and places of business that might bring about positive change.

Readers, what can you tell us?