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  • Writer's pictureThe Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples

We Wish To Live Freely as Who We Are! | TDoR November 20, 2021 by Jojo V. Gabuya

On November 11, 2021, Forbes reports,

375 transgender people were killed this year (2021), a figure that has risen since last year's total of 350.

The report authors say this makes 2021 the 'deadliest year' of violence against gender diverse people since records began. One in four of those murdered were killed in their own home.

The annual global list is released for Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR), held on November 20 each year.

The majority of the murders happened in Central and South America (70%). But like last few years, the most deaths in a single country occurred in Brazil, totalling 33% of global deaths.

Cases from Greece, Kazakhstan, and Malawi were reported for the first time too.

The report notes that the numbers indicate a worrying trend when it comes to the intersections of misogyny, racism, xenophobia, and hate towards sex workers.

It found that most victims were Black and migrant trans women of colour and trans sex workers.

Nine in ten (96%) of those murdered globally were trans women or transfeminine people.

In 2018, Australia’s “News” reported that in the Philippines, “alleged sex worker, 26-year-old Jennifer Laude was found semi-naked and dead in a motel room’s bathroom with black strangulation marks on her neck and her head in the toilet bowl” on October 1, 2014. The perpetrator of the crime was Joseph Pemberton, a 19-year-old U.S. Marine. He is the first U.S. soldier who was arrested and convicted of a crime. There had been many reported and unreported violations – killings, rapes, harassments and other crimes committed by U.S. soldiers, but charges were never made against them. However, Pemberton was only convicted of homicide, and sentenced to a maximum of 10 years in jail, with the decision upheld on appeal in April 2017, because the prosecution could not prove cruelty, treachery, and superior force. The judge even considered Ms. Laude’s failure to disclose the fact she was trans as a mitigating factor.

And to make matters worse for Jennifer’s family and loved ones who have been grieving and seeking for justice up to this day, CNN Philippines published that on September 7, 2020 “President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday granted ‘absolute pardon’ to US Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton after serving less than six years in detention for killing Filipino transgender woman Jennifer Laude.”

FYI, the Philippines and the United States of America have more than 100-year-old Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which has perpetrated prostitution in the Philippines, where over 800,000 marginalized and poor women, children, and transgender persons have been pimped out to have sex with American soldiers who are guarding five U.S. Military Bases in the country.

In the United States, The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) says that in 2021 at least 46 transgender or gender non-conforming people were fatally shot or killed by other violent means. HRC says “at least because too often these stories go unreported –or misreported. In previous years, the majority of these people were Black and Latinx transgender women.

In 2020, HRC tracked a record number of violent fatal incidents against transgender and gender non-conforming people. A total of 44 fatalities were tracked by HRC, marking 2020 as the most violent year on record since HRC began tracking these crimes in 2013. These victims, like all of us, are loving partners, parents, family members, friends and community members. They worked, went to school and attended houses of worship. They were real people – people who did not deserve to have their lives taken from them.

Last Tuesday, I was reminded of Them, my transgender, non-binary and gender non-conforming siblings, whose lives were violently ended, while I was watching the birds freely frolicking along the waterfront at Jack London Square in Oakland. These birds were oblivious of the honking of the Amtrak train, the conversations of some passersby, and other distracting noise in the area. I wished that my trans and gender non-conforming siblings could have lived longer to experience the simple joys in life, just like those birds in flight, in a safe space where they could bravely and honestly live as who they are. I wished that they could have lived in an environment where they could honestly identify as who they are. I wished that they could have sat with me at a table where everyone has a seat, where everyone is accepted, where everyone can freely claim and experience being the Beloveds of the Creator/Divine/God whose boundarylessness/ unlimitedness, diversity and unconditional love would disrupt the system that currently exists and to dismantle what has been considered as normative up to this time of the pandemic, to give birth to something new that widens our circle. And, in this circle, my transgender, non-binary and gender non-conforming siblings and I could have danced with the Divine within and among us, without being discriminated, misgendered, ostracized, and treated less of a human being. In Dancing with the Divine, Carla De Sola writes, “dancing gives expression to who we are, how we see the world around us, and the mysteries of our faith.”

Sadly, the systems and structures in society, where we are supposed to grow and flourish, have controlled our freedoms and disrespected our rights, disillusioned and misinformed us with capitalist-fabricated facts, and used us as weapons against others who don’t look like us or speak like us. One of these systems and structures, is institutionalized religion, particularly Christianity, which has wounded my transgender, non-binary and gender non-conforming community/people. As Dr. Howard Thurman points out, “It cannot be denied that too often the weight of the Christian movement has been on the side of the strong and the powerful and against the weak and oppressed—this, despite the gospel.” (Jesus and the Disinherited)

Instead of spreading Jesus’ gospel of love and justice, some of the mainline churches in this country have perpetuated racism (including anti-Asian racism), sexism, and transphobia, by literally translating some horrible and misogynistic texts in the Bible to justify their oppressive and socially unjust practices. Thus, I couldn’t blame fellow transgender, non-binary and gender non-conforming folks who have either denounced their Christian faith, or have turned to other faiths, atheism, paganism, and other spiritual practices, which can help them attain fullness of life.

It is time now that we, transgender, non-binary and gender non-conforming persons thrive!

“It is time we lead ourselves into the well,” to drink and refresh ourselves with its living water, in communion and harmony with all living creatures, both human and nonhuman. And, to be basically good and intrinsically loving and compassionate like we used to be, thereby being alive again on this planet. For we are all part of this earth community, whose lives are intertwined. We are all one and united in our diversity as transgender, non-binary and gender non-conforming persons, cisgender, queer, and those with disability. Together with the planet and all its inhabitants, we will help build, create/paint a bright, diverse, hopeful, and inclusive future for All! In creating this kind future, let us be guided by Dr. Thurman’s philosophy of self-exploration and community building through meaningful and creative shared experiences. But, we need to remember the names of our transgender, non-binary and gender non-conforming siblings who suffered from violent deaths. We need to remember their stories. The memories of transgender, non-binary and gender non-conforming fatalities will live in the minds of the living, Us. They will not be erased because They are just like you and I who are all made in the image and likeness of God/Creator/Divine/Buddha/Allah/Mohammed who love us, just as we are, Beautiful and Fabulous!

(Please click on the link below and scroll to the last video to see the reading of names.)

Please join me now in prayer:

Creator/Divine/God/Holy One of Diversity and Inclusivity, and life-giving Spirit of all creation, including humankind of all genders and all sexualities, today we remember our transgender, non-binary and gender non-conforming siblings - their flesh, their bones, their blood, and their spirits.

Help us to dismantle the exclusiveness of an either-or mentality, and welcome the inclusiveness of an all and every way of thinking.

May we move beyond binary definitions and embrace the mystery and complexity of Your infinite creativity and wonderful creation.

As we pause to remember our transgender, nonbinary and gender non-conforming siblings who were brutally murdered or senselessly killed because of their full humanity, open our hearts, minds, and spirits so that we might hear, know, and see that we are all made of the same flesh, bone, blood, and spirits.

We are created in your own image and likeness.

We mirror your brilliant and beautiful diversity, but some people hate and violate our brilliant and beautiful diversity. They tortured and killed some of our transgender, non-binary and gender non-conforming siblings because they did not fit the gender mold of the majority.

When we live across gender, we are abused, hated and killed.

Today we ask forgiveness for our complicity with this violence through silence, shrill laughter, thoughtless disregard or baseless fear of our siblings who beautifully defy society's binary and heteronormative gender construction.

Forgive us for the times when we ignored the cries of our transgender, non-binary and gender non-conforming siblings who suffered harm and lost their lives.

Awaken us to the pressing needs of those whose genders don’t measure up to the standards of society. Help us to respect Their Preferred Pronouns, and let Them live with No Fear!

Remind us of our power to help those who carry the burdens of discrimination based on gender, race, and other divisive demographics.

And, Transform us to a life rooted in Compassion, Love, Justice, and Solidarity with All Peoples!

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