Sunday, November 21, 2010

Transgender Day of Remembrance

© 2010 Karen Van Fossan

I have read in Time magazine about man make-up. I have seen the man purse, proudly worn. I know women who feel sexy in a nice, snug pair of men's jeans. Gender-bending seems to have inspired our mainstream sense of fashion, if not our deeper sense of who we are. And still, transgendered people – those who cross gender lines by cross-dressing, cross-identifying, or reassigning their biological sex – have reason to watch their backs.

Transgender Day of Remembrance is a day, or sometimes a week, to mourn and remember those who have been killed because of anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. The first commemoration was held in 1999 to honor Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was stabbed to death in the Boston area on November 28, 1998.

In commemoration of Transgender Day of Remembrance, there are stories I want to tell, hundreds and hundreds of stories. These are just a few that I have learned...

Izmir, Turkey

Azra lived and died in Izmir,
one of Turkey's largest cities,
along the Aegean Sea.

She was a founding
member, the first member,
of the Black Pink Triangle LGBTT Association,
which works for
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transvestite, and Transgender

Turkish officials,
including the Minister of the Interior
and the Governor of Izmir,
tried to close Black Pink down.

They claimed:
Black Pink violates
public morality
and Turkey's family structure.
They took Black Pink to court.

But the Turkish judge replied:
“Like other citizens,
lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender people
have a right to create
This case is dismissed.”

With Azra's help,
Black Pink won the right to agitate.

But that same week,
Azra was shot
and killed, probably by a serial killer,
known for murdering women.

At a vigil in her name –
and the names of
other loved ones –
people wore
pictures of Azra
on their hearts.

Rome, Italy

In the city of the Sistine Chapel,
the Vatican,
the Tiber River, the Colosseum,

Brenda made her living
on the streets.

Maybe she intended it,
or maybe she didn't intend it –
but she found herself
at the center of a scandal.

Piero Marrazzo,
former governor of the Lazio region,
was rumored –
or maybe known –
to seek the services
of transsexual women
in Brenda's line of work.

There was media attention.
There were accusations.
There were illicit videos,

In the midst of this,
Brenda died in a fire
in her apartment.

Authorities found
a couple of packed
in Brenda's home.

Maplewood, New Jersey, USA

The County Prosecutor's Office said:

“On Sunday, September 12,
at approximately 5 a.m.,
Victoria Carmen White, 28,
of Newark,
was fatally shot at a private residence
located at 159 Jacoby Street
in Maplewood.
Information released immediately following
the shooting identified the victim
as James White.”

Long Island Channel 12 reported:

“The family of a woman
killed in Maplewood
believes her murder may have been
a hate crime.
Investigators say they are searching for two men
White and her cousin had met
earlier at an Irvington night club.
Relatives now wonder if the men she met
reacted violently
after somehow learning
Victoria was a transgender

A friend named “Hortense” said:

“Are you sure that police spokesperson got her facts correct?
From what I understand,
Carmen didn't go out with her two cousins
and was home on the couch asleep when they returned home.
Her cousins brought those thugs up in the house.
Carmen didn't date that element of man.”

A friend named Alanna Carter said:

“I've never met a more radiant

She was found in
the Kalimalang River.

Her body was not
in one piece.

No one
seems to know
her name.


In honor of Transgender Day of Remembrance, there are also poems I long to make, write, scream, sing, demand. Here is the first.

(If you're a regular reader of this blog, you may have seen it before in an earlier form.)

It is...

Dedicated to my transgender friends, relatives, and students
who are very much alive.

Dedicated to the people around the world
who are commemorating Transgender Day of Remembrance this week.

Dedicated to the 150 transgender people
who were murdered in the United States this year.

Dedicated to Roy Antonio Jones III,
a 16-month-old baby who was beaten and choked to death
for acting like a girl.

Dedicated to Azra from Turkey, Brenda from Italy, Victoria Carmen from New Jersey.

Dedicated to the unidentified transgender woman
whose body was found, in pieces, in the Kalimalang River.

Also, this is dedicated to you.

by Karen Van Fossan

There was a woman
whose name I have never known.
The syllables of her name
might have been sharp against my tongue,
had I ever tried to pronounce them,
which I did not.

The woman was not my friend.
Her sisters were not my friends,
nor her brothers, nor her fathers, nor the mothers of her heart.

I never washed my clothes
in the Kalimalang River
with her.
I never heard her humming
as she combed her tangled hair.
I never knew her favorite things,
the nightmares that made her
gasp for light,
the person or the people
who put her torso,
then her legs,
then her head inside the river.

If I could walk from my river
to hers,
from the mud of my Missouri
to the mud of her Kalimalang,

I would find the pieces of her.
And I would hold the pieces of her.
To each and every piece,
I would
It is all right.

There was a woman
whose name I have never known.
The syllables of her name
might have been sharp against my tongue.

And yet, I miss her.


May we remember those who deserve to be remembered.

May we find a more just and loving future.

Peace to you,


Anonymous said...


Dad said...

Very nicely done...we all miss her now and never met her either. Thanks for your heart! Dad

blogslut said...

How beautiful! Thank you.