Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

Transgender Day of Remembrance 2011: Nothing to Say

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | November 20, 2011 11:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: TDOR, trans rights, Transgender Day of Remembrance

On the Transgender Day of Remembrance, I can find no fitting words of my own to say. Who's going to listen, anyway? I am too far from the days when I wanted to die, when people stopped to point and laugh at me on the street, when I lost my job and took anything I could find after months of joblessness threatened to put me on the street, when the need for human companionship led me down dangerous streets, Thumbnail image for Remembering-Our-Dead.jpgwhen I felt the imminence of violence in the air. I only have the memory of fear.

I remember the gun leaning against the wall in the house of a man I had only recently met, and knowing that I would not live to see the morning.

Our dead come most often from our most marginalized and vulnerable populations, the economically disadvantaged, people of color, sex workers. The world takes little notice of their deaths, except to scoff.

We are not heard, and they know that no one will listen. When Duanna Johnson was beaten by that thug-like police officer in front of the cameras, punched her in the face as hard as he could with handcuffs across his knuckles, he knew in his soul that he could do it with impunity and he did. She later turned up dead. The jury couldn't agree on whether he'd done anything wrong. He later pled guilty and received only 24 months, and part of that was for tax evasion.

If the police, who are the protectors of our society, can do this, there is a lesson for the brutes of our world -- no one is listening to their cries. There are thousands of stories like this. What is there to say in the face of this? What soothing words can we pour forth to assuage our guilt? Did the Roman citizens complain about the people torn to pieces by lions as the crowds watched? They did not; what would have been the point? There is no one to hear us. There is no one to hear us.

The words of poet Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha resonate with me, in her poem "Noise."


if a girl screams
in a forest
in an oil field on fire
in a immigration holding cell motel by the airport
and CNN doesn't tell it
no reporters embedded to witness
does she make a sound?
does her voice
spread over galaxies
neutrons milky ways
mars and jupiter
closer than they've ever been
does she make a sound and
does anyone give a fuck.

if a girl screams on a street corner
hustling her ass
if she wakes up to a man in her bed
who wasn't there when she turned the light off
if girl gets followed home
from her job stripping in front of a digi-cam
does it make a sound?
if the papers say she isn't quite a girl
and may live or have lived
in a house the neighbors
may or may not refer to as "a crack house"
what sound does her scream make?

if a girl is so hungry
has no money
wants all the
peaches and melon that drip off the shelves
of the market in summer
but goes home and eats dandelion greens
from her backyard
is she too hungry to make any noise?
if she is a poet not all up in
in MA and BA
and most of all BS
do her words get picked up on the satellites
that pick up everything?

if they recruit a whole army of girls
girls who look just like us but not quite
tits asses and skin
mouthing their words on the screen for them
where do our voices go?

listen. we are all making noise
even when our sound is too scared too hungry too dead to be picked up
by radar
cup your ear hard.

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thank you, Jillian. the poem is gorgeous.

Thank you, Jillian.

I so know what you mean. Here's my take:


Jill, you are a treasure for the community.

I should try to remember to ask to use your powm for next year's TDOR in White Plains.

(Even though I put this year's event together, I was in the hospital yesterday and had to rely on others to actually preside at and participate in running the service.)

I am most horrified that the reported numbers rises every year. The TGEU list for this year had 221 names on 59 pages of PDF. While I grant that the number in the US is actually getting smaller, this is not a quantification thing, Each murder is in and of itself a horror that should never have taken place.

In parts of Brazil, such as Belem, whenever there is a report of two men on a motorbike committing the murder, you can almost assume that the two men are police in civilian clothing. As you pointed out about the case of Duanna Johnson, the police in these circumstances feel that they are above the law.

This is indicative of a breakdown in civilization - how a culture treats the least of its people is indicative of its level of civilization.