Remembering the trans community

Every year, the Transgender Day of Remembrance is held on Nov. 20. This year, the day will have special significance locally, as the murderer of Stacey Blahnik, house mother for the House of Blahnik, remains at large. Blahnik was found dead in her home Oct. 11.

The Day of Remembrance was started in 1999, in response to the murder of Chanelle Pickett in 1995 and Rita Hester three years later.

Organizers founded it to be a solemn affair, to focus on the violence inflicted on these individuals, and how often their murders go unsolved by police.

Since 1970, there have been 320 transgender deaths due to violence in the U.S. alone, including 11 in Philadelphia, according to

The local deaths include the following: Chiron Collins (killed May 1984), Tianna Langley (March 1, 1985), Cortez Morris (April 17, 1985), Tina Arroyo (June 30, 1986), Tanya Streater (June 30, 1986), Eduardo Lora Vasallio (Aug. 11, 1990), Anna Francisco (Dec. 22, 1990), an unknown cross-dressed male (Jan. 1, 1995), Nizah Morris (Dec. 22, 2002) and Alexis King (Feb. 2, 2006).

In addition to Blahnik, Nizah Morris’ 2002 death is still unsolved.

The transgender and lesbian/gay factions of the sexual-minority community have long had an uneasy relationship. Some transgender folks feel they don’t fit in with gays and lesbians because they don’t have same-sex relationships. Some gays and lesbians don’t identify with transgender individuals because they have never experienced gender dysphoria. (Since they are attracted to people of the same sex, it may be even harder to imagine feeling “wrong” in their own bodies.)

Transgender legal issues are different as well: They aren’t covered under sexual-orientation protections, but under gender identity, which is often closely tied to gender discrimination.

Unfortunately, transgender individuals too often feel marginalized by both the gay and the heterosexual community.

Perhaps using the analogy of “family” here would help inform some understanding. In a nuclear family, siblings are often different: They have different experiences, talents, likes, dislikes, interests and even values. They might squabble amongst themselves from time to time, but they usually make amends — because they are family. Because, in the end, they will stick up for one another and they will fight for one another.

So, too, should the LGBT family stick together. Not everyone in the community will identify with everyone else. Not everyone will have the same experiences or interests. We won’t always understand one another. But we should respect each other and defend each other. No matter how the different aspects of the community align themselves, each one is stronger when we stand together.