Transgender Day of Remembrance Honored
For the first time, the UCI Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Resource Center and OUTspoken sponsored memorials and showed a short documentary entitled, ‘Just Call me Kade’ on campus in honor of the Transgender Day of Remembrance on Nov. 20.
The Transgender Day of Remembrance began in 1999 as a candlelight vigil, which took place in San Francisco to honor Rita Hester, who was murdered in 1998. The Transgender Day of Remembrance is now held annually to commemorate the lives of transgender people who were lost as a result of transgender discrimination.
The memorial began in the LGBTRC with students and community members reading the names of 38 transgender individuals who were killed around the world by anti-transgender violence.
‘It’s amazing to hear the stories and know that this is happening and there were 38 [murders]. That’s over three a month,’ said Dustin Utt, OUTspoken president and LGBTRC member. ‘And those are reported. There are always a lot more [crimes] than are reported.’
Utt feels that it is extremely important to publicize the murder of transgender individuals. According to Utt, if their deaths are not publicized, people who live in a community where a transgender person was killed may be oblivious to the murder.
‘I just think it’s important to talk about the visibility of it. It’s something that’s not very publicized,’ Utt said. ‘All of these deaths happened, but how many people heard about them? One of the members said it happened in his own town and he never knew. Obviously that means it’s not publicized.’
Some of the major issues addressed included the daily struggle that transgender people face in deciding which bathroom to use. For example, if a person is male-to-female, then this person will not be well-received in the men’s bathroom. If that same person uses the women’s restroom, women will say there is a man in their bathroom.
‘Every day there are the challenges that happen in terms of going to the bathroom and using pronouns in class,’ Utt said.
Utt explained that although he wants to support the transgender community by beginning to blur the gender lines, sometimes he doesn’t have a choice and must declare if he is male or female on applications.
‘I don’t want to identify, but I have to to fill out a credit card application,’ Utt said. ‘Sometimes blank isn’t an option. I do identify somewhat as a male, and we have to constantly prove our gender.’
Utt explained that OUTspoken is a new club on campus, formerly know as the Gay Straight Alliance. Utt felt that GSA was ‘very binary’ because it implied that people were either gay or straight and didn’t include bisexuals or transgender individuals.
A UCI staff member who attended the memorial shared her experiences as a male-to-female transgender individual, but asked that her name be concealed in order to protect her identity.
‘I realized even within myself that [being transgender is] not a choice,’ she said. ‘I use the [term] biological imperative, which means it’s something stronger than a want. It is a deep-down sense of who you really are despite the entire world around you telling you, ‘no that’s not what you are.”
She explained that although some people think being transgender is a lifestyle choice, this just isn’t true.
‘If it’s only a lifestyle, they would not be able to go through such a thing. You have to make sacrifices to be transsexual,’ she said. ‘It’s reclaiming my life. In a way it’s a choice, but it’s a choice to make myself normal.’
The UCI staff member said that although Orange County is stereotypically a conservative place to live, she has found acceptance within the UCI campus community.
‘I, as a transgender person, have been around the campus and I find a lot of not just tolerance, but actual acceptance,’ she said. ‘There is a difference between tolerance and acceptance. Tolerance is like, ‘I’ll be okay with you as long as you don’t get too close,’ and here there is actually acceptance.’
Elisabeth Aulwurm, OUTspoken event coordinator, said that within the LGBTRC community, transgender individuals are the least visible. For Aulwurm, the Transgender Day of Remembrance is not only about remembering the victims, but about acknowledging transgender people who are still living.
‘Transgender individuals are still the most hidden and it’s not because they’re choosing to be hidden, it’s because they’re afraid of what the community has done and will continue to do to them,’ Aulwurm said. ‘This is a good day to open your eyes.’
Aulwurm explained that even within the gay community, transgender individuals are not always accepted.
‘I don’t know whether it’s fear of difference or if it’s the fact that maybe if a person is transgender, and let’s say they are male-to-female, then they’re having this heterosexual relationship and that may be a threat,’ Aulwurm said. ‘A gay individual is still harassed for having a homosexual relationship.’
Director of LGBTRC Pat Walsh explained her reasons for taking part in the Transgender Day of Remembrance.
‘I wanted to find a way to increase the understanding of the lives of transgender people here, and I also knew that there were many people who were supported,’ Walsh said. ‘I wanted to create a place where people could gather as a community and mourn and share community.’
Walsh is hopeful that UCI will have unisex bathrooms, which will eliminate some of the everyday struggles of transgender individuals.