Last night, I attended the Houston Transgender Day of Remembrance ceremony on the campus of the University of Houston. I had the good fortune of being in the right place at the right time, and ended up attending with Vanity Wilde and some of her friends. If I hadn’t gone with them, I probably wouldn’t have been able to attend. Read elsewhere about my ongoing medical issues. That’s not what this post is about.
Before the ceremony began, several friends of the transgender community who were in attendance spoke. The ceremony itself was incredibly powerful. The one that really struck me was Phyllis Frye, the first transgender judge in Texas, and only the second in the US. The fact that Houston, not Austin, was the first Texas city to name a transperson as a judge just blows me away. The fact that Texas named the second one in the US is incredible.
The ceremony itself was both powerful and disturbing. It consisted of an opening and closing song, neither of which I can remember right now. But that wasn’t the really powerful part of the ceremony. The theme of the ceremony is “Remember Me”. The ceremony is a reading of the name of a murdered transperson, cause of death, date of death, and a short paragraph about that person. Each person on the list was murdered in the year since the prior reading of the list. NB: I use the word person specifically because it is so seldom that a transperson is seen as a person first, if at all.
Two things struck me as particularly disturbing last night. First, the number of names that were to be read was incredible. Twenty-eight names and stories were read aloud. Twenty-eight people whose lives were cut short by hate and bigotry. And that doesn’t include the people driven to suicide by forces in their lives that were beyond their control.
Statistically, 16% of transpeople have attempted suicide, and 60% have seriously considered it. In Houston, no health insurance will cover TG healthcare needs. No homeless shelter will house a transgendered person. 50% of TGs have been a victim of an assault, and 74% have experienced sexual violence.
And if all of that isn’t enough to melt your heart, and to get you to remember on the next November 20th, maybe this will be. This I will quote directly from the reading.
Roy Antonio Jones III
Location: Southampton NY
Cause of death: Punched repeatedly and grabbed by the neck
Remember Me: I was 16 months old when a 20 year old man was babysitting me on the Shinnecock Indian Reservation on Long Island. He was not my father and not a member of the tribe. I was hit several times throughout my body with closed fists and grabbed by the neck. When questioned by the police, my attacker told the police, “I was trying to make him act like a boy instead of a little girl. I never struck that kid that hard before.” He has been charged with first-degree manslaughter. I was 16 Months old.
16 months old, and his 20 year old babysitter decided he was too effeminate. Was Roy Antonio Jones III actually transgendered? The world will never know, because a violent act of gender repression took his young life. And for those who don’t know, the Two-Spirit People are accepted by most Native American tribes. They were even revered by many as specially chosen by the Great Spirit, according to my Barbara, who was 1/4 Native American.
I’m sure glad I didn’t meet anyone like him when I was 16 months old. I wouldn’t be here today to tell you this story. Don’t get me wrong, I have suffered abuse for who I was, and am. My father was definitely a man’s man, as was his father before him. I didn’t live up to my father’s expectations. I haven’t been manly enough for most of the men in my life.
The next time you see November 20 come up on your calendar, I hope you will pause for a moment, and remember Roy Antonio Jones III. And when you do, remember also this: A transgendered person is assaulted on average every other day, simply for being who they are.
Storied career takes transgender attorney to judgeship | Houston & Texas News | Chron.com – Houston Chronicle
Alameda County home to first transgender judge in nation – San Jose Mercury News
Deeply Problematic: 17-month-old Roy Jones brutally murdered for acting like a girl