Transgender Awareness Week, dedicated to honoring the lives of and obstacles faced by the transgender community, covers the seven days before November 20, Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDR). This day began in 1998 after the death of Rita Helser, a transwoman killed because of her identity. Originally intended as a vigil planned by Rita’s friend Gwendolyn Ann Smith, TDR blossomed into an annual day to honor lives lost to violence against trans people.

Rates of violence against trans individuals are extremely high, with one out of every four people who identify as transgender having experienced some kind of bias-driven assault. Each year over two dozen transgender individuals are killed as a result of this violence, with black and Latinx transwomen facing the brunt of it.

During this week, organizers around the world hold vigils to raise awareness of this reality. The vigils are just the starting point for the work done by the LGBTQ+ community to reduce levels of violence and create a more welcoming society for trans people.To begin today, we invite you to reflect upon two quotes, explore book and film recommendations, and do the spiritual practices.

To Name this Day:

Quotes

  • I, he, she, we.
    In the garden of mystic lovers
    these are not true distinctions.
    — Jelaluddin Rumi in Love, Soul and Freedom by Denise Breton and Christopher Largent
  • I see God in many places and movements today, including these three overlapping contexts: (1) global efforts toward peace-building and non-violent resistance; (2) the struggle for liberation of all women, gays, lesbians, bisexual, transgender, and other queer people; (3) our learning together how to care for the earth and its many varied creatures.
    — Carter Heyward in God in the Balance

Films

  • Family in Transition is an intensely intimate profile of a transgender woman and her transforming support network.
  • A Fantastic Woman weaves a moving story about the spiritual journey of a grieving transgender woman.
  • Growing Up Coy follows the story of a landmark case about the value of state antidiscrimination laws to protect the rights of transgender people.

Books

  • It Feels Good to Be Yourself is a children’s book that explores the possibilities and vocabulary that comes along with transgender identities. Author Theresa Thorn’s final paragraph beautifully states: “We need more books with trans protagonists. The trans population is as diverse as the human population, and no number of books could hold all our stories. Dear reader, it’s up to you to continue this work, rewrite these definitions, share your stories, and build a future more expansive than we can imagine. You are the future we’re fighting for.”

Spiritual Practices

  • Make a point this week to learn more about ways to get involved every day of the year to honor trans lives and work to reduce violence motivated by transphobia.
  • To observe Transgender Remembrance Day, organize or join a vigil in your community.
  • Use the following “Prayer of Queer Thanksgiving” at home or at a community gathering. It was written by The Rev. Micah Bucey, minister at Judson Memorial Church in New York City.

“I sing praises to this little boy, no more than seven or eight,
Who just pranced right up to me and interlaced his own tiny, nail-polished fingers
With my own, and cried out, “Twins!”
I sing praises to his choice of glittery green,
Which perfectly complements my shimmery purple.
I sing praises to his guts, his gumption, his presumption
That I am a friend, a familiar, a fellow fairy — family —
Even though we’ve never met.
I sing praises to the street that brings us together
And to the fabulous whomever he, she, they will become.
“I sing praises to the well-coiffed mother, bubbling over and teary-eyed,
As she exclaims, “He saw you all the way across the street and just had to say, ‘Hello.’”
I sing praises to the baseball-capped father, looking on with quiet pride,
As he asks, “Do you paint yourself or do you have them professionally done?”
I sing praises to the grandma and the grandpa, holding hands and smiling wide,
As they look one another in the eye and celebrate what their love has made.
“I sing praises to the dozens of witnesses to this family reunion,
The ones who hurry by and the ones who slow down,
The ones who look up from their phones to watch history being made,
The ones who set aside their cynicism for one, brief, shining moment,
So they can join in the smiles,
Join in the connection,
As I squeeze the tiny fingers of this seven-or-eight-year-old unicorn and proclaim: “Twins!”
“And I sing praises to the cloud of invisible witnesses that surrounds us,
And in the singing and the praising, I feel them appear around us.
This is fantasy, but this is real.
This is fantasy, but fantasy is what painted our nails in the first place.
“I see Marsha, brick in hand, ready to take no shit,
And Sylvia, microphone primed, ready to take us to task.
I see Christine, done up and glamorous, no hair out of place,
And I hear Marlene and Sylvester and David, crooning as Billy tickles the ivories.
I see Langston and Lorraine and James and Oscar, scribbling away,
As José and Eve and Michel critique and queer and complicate.
I hear Divine and Candy and Jackie and Andy and Hibiscus whispering,
“Don’t be so serious. Let this just be the silly thing it is.”
I feel the breeze as Alvin twirls by,
And I feel the squeeze as Alan computes the logic of it all.
I see Harvey and Audre and Michael and Harry,
And Gordon and Edie and Jane and Dick,
Satisfied and still nudging, content and continuing to fight.
I hear Leonard and Howard composing a hit,
As Michael choreographs a group number,
And Frida lines us all up for what will surely be a kooky portrait for the ages.
“I feel the forces, see the faces of the famous and the foreign,
And the cloud opens wider to reveal our mess of martyrs.
I see Matthew and Brandon and Roxana and Joan,
I see faces I’ve never seen before,
I hear names I’ve never known,
I hear voices I’ve never heard before, shouting, “Twins! Twins! Twins!”
We are nothing alike and we are everything alike,
We are on the street together and we are more than worlds apart.
“We are a rainbow and we are a cloud,
Born of color and tears, of triumph and tragedy,
Feeding the arc of a moral universe that has trampled us,
Even as we decorate the damn thing and teach it how to bend.
We are serious and sassy, glittery and grim,
Furious and filled with fear that fools itself into fabulosity.
We are everything I describe and nothing I describe.
We are everything I see and so much I do not see.
We can pick out one another on the street,
And we can be strangers in the same parade.
We are more than fits inside our ever-expanding initials,
And we are only as much as we allow ourselves to be.
We are a rainbow and we are a cloud,
Bending and bursting, beautiful and terrifying.
And I sing praises to the rainbow and I sing praises to the cloud.
I sing praises to the colorful progress,
And I sing praises to the storm that shouts, “Progress is a myth.
Stop acting so small. You are the Universe in ecstatic motion.”
“I sing praises to the Universe that we are,
To the rainbow that we’ve been, to the cloud we will all become,
And I feel that word fizzing up inside me, though it often frightens more than frees:
“Family.”
I sing praises to this family
That claims me for who I am and gently shoves me into who I can become.
“I sing praises to the saints who don’t want to be saints,
To the martyrs and the heroes who ask for none of the notoriety.
I sing praises to the bloodless ties that keep us afloat until the blood ties catch up.
I sing praises to the clouds that cry out, “Families belong together,”
And know that it means so much more than what some want it to mean.
“I sing praises to this fleeting moment on the street,
A moment that begins between two nail-polished people,
And then prisms out, extending the rainbow, creating the cloud.
We are twins and we are nothing alike.
We are seeking a tribe and we are extending the tribe.
We have so much to teach and we have so much to learn.
We have eternal praises to sing and we have eternal thanks to give.
“Our greatest gift is the light of our color and the salt of our tears,
As we recognize one another like children on the busy street and insist on saying,
“Hello. I see you. I feel this between us and I can’t quite explain it.”
“I sing praises to our gift of family recognition,
And until all families bend to the love of difference,
Until this country bends to love of family,
I sing praises to this growing familial cloud,
Rainbow saints painting paths for their yearning children,
And I pray not with my own hands clasped together,
But with my polished fingers interlaced with any other child I can recognize.
Amen.”