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International Transgender Day of Remembrance

Today is the 11th annual International Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day to mourn those who were killed by hatred, bigotry, and ignorance.  Many of these deaths went unreported in the media, or if they were covered, the victims were reduced to attention-grabbing headlines and dehumanizing terms. You can read the names of the 162 trans people murdered between November 20, 2008 and November 12, 2009 here, and these are only the people we know about. Surely, there have been more. As Feministe reports: "most were women. Most were black or Latina. A disproportionate number were sex workers. Several were still only teenagers."  I wonder how many were Jewish, and whether trans Jews face the same threat of violence as trans people in other communities.

I am grateful that the Jewish community has so many dedicated trans rights activits in its midst, like Shulamit Izen, Idit Klein, the late Joyce Warshow, and the good people working at organizations like Keshet.  Overall, it feels as though the larger Jewish community is relatively accepting of trans identities.  Or perhaps my perception is skewed because I live in a very liberal area. Still, even here, there remain barriers to equality and acceptance within the Jewish community, and there is much work to be done. 

Many in the Jewish community think about trans issues on an intellectual level, trying to reconcile gender-queer identities with gender-specific religious practice within Judaism. (See Jordan's post here.)  But for other groups, "trans issues" refer specifically to safety and the threat of violence. Acceptance is a key factor in safety, as many trans youth are kicked out of their homes at a young age, or have to run away in order to be who they are.  Many of these teens turn to sex work, which further endangers them.  Wealth is also an important factor in safety, as trans youth can afford to attend trans-friendly schools and colleges, and can choose to live and work in safe neighborhoods. These factors could be related to the fact that there aren't many (or any) Jews on that list. 

We must continue to educate the ignorant and intolerant, and work to protect our friends in the trans community -- and by this I mean the Jewish, and non-Jewish trans communities.  It is not enough to protect our own.  The list of names mentioned above demonstrates why, on this issue in particular, we must reach outside of the Jewish community in order to repair the world.

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This post focuses on violence as the cause of death for many transgendered people. This post reminded me that suicide is a very real threat for trans folks too. It mention's Kate Bornstein's somewhat radical and very compassionate book, Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and Other Outlaws, a great resource for anyone who has felt "othered."

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How to cite this page

Berkenwald, Leah. "International Transgender Day of Remembrance." 20 November 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on March 22, 2019) <https://jwa.org/blog/itdor>.


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