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By Carmen Garcia
In observation of Transgender Day of Remembrance, a service was held at Central United Methodist Church in Detroit last Friday evening. When the service concluded, I thanked Michelle Fox-Phillips for a wonderful service and she said, “And who is absent AGAIN? The media.”
I thought about that for a while. The truth is: this was an easy event for area journalists to dismiss. There was the tree lighting event at Campus Martius. There were countless entertainment events taking place just steps away from Central United Methodist Church to cover. Those events offered holiday music and lights, hors d’oeuvres and photo ops of smiling faces. In a region that has such a deep need for healing, it’s probably natural for the media to run toward “feel good” events.
Here’s what the media missed: a well-planned and beautifully presented hour-long memorial service. The names of over 200 Trans* people, whose lives ended violently in the past 12 months, were read aloud as candles were lit — a candle to commemorate each life lost. Every speaker was eloquent, the music that filled the beautiful sanctuary was comforting and the crowd was attentive and in quiet reflection. Prayers and poems were offered to help all of us navigate the pain of facing the brutal reality of so many precious lives lost – some of whom died nameless, all of whom suffered greatly.
It’s gut-wrenching to hear name after name, feeling sad and wishing that we could turn the clock back and somehow prevent each death. There is also great sadness in knowing that this is not going to be the last such service. Next year, more candles will be lit as more names will be spoken aloud. More creative, loving members of our community will be lost. It’s important to pause, reflect and remember. What do we do when the service is over?
The media also missed an opportunity to hear a call to action. More than one speaker reminded us that there is something very important each of us can do to support our Trans* brothers and sisters. We can let the members of the Michigan legislature know that we want them to support amending the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include protections for sexual orientation AND gender identity and expression. Find your legislators at http://www.senate.mi.gov and http://www.house.mi.gov.
We can be forceful allies who push for a bill that doesn’t continue to marginalize the members of our community who are Trans*. Having the opportunity to do something allows me to direct the anger and sadness that I felt for each person whose name I heard and each description of a nameless casualty of transphobia. Remembering is important. Turning remembrance into action honors the lives lost and also honors the efforts of each person on the committee which prepared the event and each presenter who thoughtfully led part of the service.
Moveon.org has a petition you can sign to help our Trans* friends and family: http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/expand-michigans-civil
If you want to do more, Affirmations, S.P.I.C.E., Equality Michigan and the ACLU of Michigan have prepared a toolkit for action. See it at http://www.miroundtable.org/Roundtabledownloads/Elliott-Larsen%20Toolkit.pdf.