November 20th is International Transgender Day of Remembrance. TDoR commemorates the deaths of countless victims of transphobia and persecution for gender-nonconformity. It is without a doubt a pretty somber day for those who observe it in the queer community, and people like me who organize events.
UNO’s agency of Gender and Sexual Orientation does a pretty good job of trans-inclusivity (I mean, look at our title). Since the 20th falls on Saturday, and the campus is a ghost town on Friday, we picked today to kick things off.
The most eyecatching thing we do every year is build cemetery. The campus pep bowl is filled with six or seven rows of simple black (styrofoam) tombstones, with names, dates, and causes of death. We get the information from a very depressing list (Excel spreadsheet) on the official TDoR site that documents US deaths back to 1970. I painted a couple dozen new tombstones earlier this week, and I wish I could say it was sensationalistic of me to pick the ones I did. Shot 16 times. Beaten, strangled, stabbed, then burned. 42 stab wounds. Dismembered. It’s inconceivable that, as horrible as murder is to begin with, people will go to such lengths when confronted with a trans or simply gender-deviant person. We hope that the students who pass by the memorial will realize that this happens, and it’s the tip of the iceberg when it comes to trans bullying and abuse.
GSO also set up a podium in the plaza and read from the list today, although I think since we didn’t have the TDoR sign nearby, most passers-by had no clue what was going on. Then we aired trans-related movies in the student center lounge all afternoon, including Boys Don’t Cry. The first time I watched that movie, I was alone with the door locked, because I somewhat knew what I was getting into; and I’ll freely admit I did cry, a lot. It’s difficult to watch, so difficult I’m surprised Hollywood picked it up, but I think everyone ought to see it.
We watched The Brandon Teena Story afterward, a documentary released somewhat before Boys Don’t Cry. It includes Brandon’s police interviews and murder trial audio, plus lots of interviews with those around Brandon, including the two murderers. For that reason especially, it was very interesting, so maybe if you do watch Boys Don’t Cry, you should watch this one afterward.
Monday should be less depressing. As we have the past couple years, GSO is bringing the wonderful folk duo Coyote Grace to play in the student center ballroom. Ingrid Elizabeth plays a huge upright bass, and the guitarist, Joe Stevens, is a transman but mainly an awesome vocalist. Also at the show is Elaina M. Ellis, a queer poet. If you’re on campus, stop by the ballroom from 11-1; you can even make it your lunch, since we’ll have free food.
I can’t really say “happy TDoR,” but I hope all the trans people out there are happy this year’s TDoR, and that it only gets better each year after this.