On January 4th, 2019 I closed an Instagram channel I had started the January prior. The channel is called “Stop Trans Violence.” My vision was to have a place online where I would be able to honor transgender and gender variant people who had lost their lives to violence or suicide in 2018. That year, I posted 215 times—almost one post per life lost. The documented deaths globally that year ended up being close to double that number.
Over the course of 2018 I cataloged the deaths of those who had passed on. My vision had been to bring life to their faces and names through photos and personal bios. My hope being that cisgender people like myself would see and feel a connection with the people in the posts. Rather than walking through the world choosing to be intolerant of differences, or choosing to settle and live with misguided or false information, perhaps that person would instead be compelled to demonstrate compassion and kindness. In turn, choosing to be tolerant and understanding to transgender and gender variant people and their experiences. Just maybe, the cisgender person viewing a post would even become an ally.
My last post read as follows:
It’s been just under one year since I began the @stoptransviolence channel. In that time I’ve realized that cataloging the death of other human beings has been one of the most difficult tasks I’ve ever undertaken. Over the last half of 2018, as Editor, I debated whether or not to continue maintaining the channel, even past the end of the year. My struggle to do so or not falls on opposite sides of the same coin. On the one side, I harken back to why I began the channel in the first place…
When I first became familiar with the level of hardship being experienced by the transgender and gender non-conforming community, and really began to understand the widespread discrimination encountered by those within the community I was dismayed. When I then learned of how many from within the community were being murdered, most by such abhorrent violence, my dismay turned to despair. In turn, I wanted to know more about who was being tragically taken away from us. As I looked online I was disheartened to only find a list of names of those murdered from the previous year. Important, yes. Yet, there was no one place I could see the faces of those we had lost, or a holistic place where I could learn anything about them. This didn’t make sense to me. Why was it so difficult to find out information about who they were as everyday people? The trans and GNC people that were dying were more than just names and numbers. They were more than just statistics. It was then I committed to myself that I would do what I could to publicize their faces and tell their stories. To not only relay how they died, but where information was available, to tell who they were as people; what their interests were, hobbies, schools or even professions. Whatever I could find online, I vowed to put up on Instagram. For the better part of twelve months I posted faces and stories of transwomen, transmen and transchildren across the globe who so devastatingly had been taken from this earth. As a modest audience to the channel grew, I knew the endeavor was important not only to me, but to other people too.
Now, to the other side of the coin.
Cataloging death is incredibly painful. As a cisgender person, there is no way I will ever embody the levels of pain or suffering a trans or GNC person might experience throughout a lifetime. And, I recognize that my feelings are far different than my understanding of what this kind of pain is. However, as an ally, I can empathize with at least one level of pain that is both jarring and never something a person should get used to. Day in and day out reading and recounting unimaginable violence and death is heart-rending and there is no way to not be affected by it in some way. Some posts still haunt me to this day and I don’t imagine the stories will every leave my psyche. Many of the photos taken of trans murders (especially those outside of the United States) are so graphic I’ve had to step away from the computer in the moment just to catch my breath. More so, some stories have been wrought with such emotional pain, especially those involving transchildren; I’ve cried for days just considering the loneliness, despair and trauma felt by so many in the community.
So, on one side is the importance in seeing the humanity of those we’ve lost and on the other side is the pain caused by the very recognition. Given this, perhaps it’s more than a coin; rather its a double-edged sword.
The original goal for STV had been to catalog every known death globally that had either been reported, or shared online by another, beginning in 2018. When no photos of those deceased were available I chose to post a photo of a white poppy flower instead, signifying peace and hope, with each post sharing whatever information was available about whose life had been taken. Any information at all that would remind the reader that the person being memorialized in the post was a human being was included. Like all human beings, each soul deserved to be honored as they moved on from this world to the next. #translivesarehumanlives
Upon reaching 2018 Transgender Day of Remembrance Day (TDOR), November 20, I became aware that I was not even half way through cataloging those who were killed or who died by suicide in 2018, and I wasn’t going to be able to get through everyone before December 31, 2018, the original goal. My heart ached deeply and in its numbness I found myself only able to post two more times since that day.
Due to this internal conflict, I’ve decided this post is the last post for @stoptransviolence. If during the course of the 12 months the channel was maintained it has offered space for another human being to feel connected to any one of the precious souls we have lost, then the channel has been worth it. If by way of its existence it has opened up space for another person to extend compassion, kindness or even hint at real understanding of a transgender or gender nonconforming person’s experience, then the channel has been worth it. Each post has then been worth every tear shed, every painful story told, every haunted face seen, every painstaking moment spent in its overall creation. By honoring these lives and saying their names out loud, as my heart has been broken, I have stepped closer into solidarity with my trans and GNC siblings and into a truer allyship. Though I will not be posting in the channel, I will not stop honoring those who are taken from us by violence.
The journey has affected me deeply and I now look towards acquiring an education and subsequent vocation which affords me the knowledge and tools to support and counsel those most in need.
My hope is that @stoptransviolence sparks in our global community the necessity for recognition, empathy and compassion to and for the trans and GNC community, and in turn, to and for ALL HUMANKIND.
Thank you for your support and your love.
Being Editor to the channel was an unforgettable experience, beyond any words I will ever be properly able to convey. I found myself accepted into a community, that by right, was not mine to be a part of in the first place. My posts created communal space for both sorrow and celebration of a human being’s life. Any comments made on a post validated the importance of what I was doing.
Now, at the start of 2021, three years later from the last post, I have become aware of the first documented murder of a Black transwoman in the United States, just two-weeks ago. Tyianna Alexander. Tyianna. Alexander.
My soul mourns.
My head hangs in grief.
While I am acutely aware that the extent of the violence inflicted on people in the community has only escalated since 2018, seeing Tyianna’s name and photo in the news and reading small reflections about her from her friends, brings all of the deep emotions I felt in creating and maintaining the channel back again.
I will begin to honor the lives of those we have lost in the United States here on my blog. While I can dream that Tyianna’s will be the only memorial post I create, I know one trans death by violence or one trans death by suicide in 2021 is not the world we live in. Please join me this year as I honor the lives and the humanities of those we lose.
Tyianna’s memorial post to follow soon. 💔