Today is the eleventh annual Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR), a day when trans people and allies are encouraged to pause and remember the people who have died in the previous year for the simple crime of being trans (or even, in the case of one person on this year's list, loving a trans person.) Today events will be held all around the world to memorialize, celebrate, and educate people about the lives of trans people and the all-to-often fatal prejudice they face.

Which isn't to say that there aren't controversies even inside the trans community about TDOR. Some people find it overly morbid--that by making our annual celebration about people who have been killed, we make ourselves out to be victims, not strong people struggling against sometimes impossible barriers. (I once heard a transsexual woman describe the day as a "pity party.") Another criticism is that we should be celebrating our lives, not our deaths--that people who are trans and live "normal" or "successful" lives should be the focus of our celebration, not the unfortunates that died.

But not me. Perhaps I've been radicalized, but to me, TDOR is no more morbid or a "pity party" than anti-rape or anti-domestic violence rallies are for women. If there is something morbid about the various TDOR events, then perhaps that is the fault of how they are structured, rather than the idea behind TDOR. For me, an event like TDOR should serve as a rallying cry: a day to stand up, demand that trans people be treated like human beings and not targets, and to reengage in the struggle to never let it happen again.

It's no accident that these criticisms tend to come from trans people who have successfully transitioned or otherwise carved out a comfortable place for themselves in the world--and the people on the TDOR memorial lists often had not...or at least never gotten the chance to. But for me the fact that so many of the victims who are the Remembered on TDOR weren't successful is why we should remember them in the first place.

Because the simple fact remains that many of the people on the list were sex workers, or poor, or people of color, or all of the above--and there is a certain rough analogue to the slut-shaming that rape victims often suffer for these people. Trans people of "respectable" circumstances, who aren't poor or sex workers or even people of color, sometimes sniff at having to treat the latest ghastly story of a trans prostitute murdered by an angry john as "one of our own." After all, they were prostitutes, right? They should have known better--a convenient erasure of what it is like to be poor, what it is like to suffer the effects of both transphobia and racism, of the dreary cycle of poverty that sucks so many people, trans or not, into sex work.

It is the List itself that makes TDOR important. Because for all the talk about "celebrating our lives," when was the last time that a trans person of color was profiled--there is plenty of room to "celebrate" the transitions of Jennifer Finney Boylan, Chloe Prince or Susan Stanton, but not Monica Roberts or Pauline Park? (Even more frustrating when you consider the last two are long-time activists.) Sadly, it seems, the only way a trans person of color can be assured of being remembered is to be murdered. And that is why we need TDOR, and should remember these dead--because they are us, and because they are invisible, and because it should never happen again.

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