Marti Abernathey

Photo Ops, Donations, And The Selling of Our Dead

Filed By Marti Abernathey | November 01, 2007 5:06 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: HRC, remembering our dead, transgender

Upon hearing of the Human Rights Campaign's (HRC) "Transgender Day of Remembrance", I had to wonder, is anything sacred to HRC?

The Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) was started by Gwen Smith. She explains the origins of TDOR on the Remembering Our Dead website:


The Transgender Day of Remembrance was set aside to memorialize those who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. The event is held in November to honor Rita Hester, whose murder on November 28th, 1998 kicked off the "Remembering Our Dead" web project and a San Francisco candlelight vigil in 1999. Rita Hester's murder -- like most anti-transgender murder cases -- has yet to be solved.

She explains the mission of the TDOR this way:

The Transgender Day of Remembrance serves several purposes. It raises public awareness of hate crimes against transgendered people, an action that current media doesn't perform. Day of Remembrance publicly mourns and honors the lives of our brothers and sisters who might otherwise be forgotten. Through the vigil, we express love and respect for our people in the face of national indifference and hatred. Day of Remembrance reminds non-transgendered people that we are their sons, daughters, parents, friends and lovers. Day of Remembrance gives our allies a chance to step forward with us and stand in vigil, memorializing those of us who've died by anti-transgender violence.

If one needs proof of the showboating, one need only look at the details of the event. To address those gathered they chose Rev. Drew Phoenix, a white transgender pastor from Baltimore, rather than someone of color from Washington D.C.. They chose the comfort of the HRC corporate headquarters, instead of a location closer to where the following deaths have occurred.

(WOC= woman of color)

Tyra Hunter - WOC- Washington D.C. 8/8/1995
Tyra Henderson - WOC - Washington, D.C. 4/23/2000
Jamie (James) Jackson - WOC - Washington, D.C. 11/21/2001
Stephanie Thomas - WOC- Washington, D.C. 8/12/2002
Ukea Davis - WOC- Washington, D.C. 8/12/2002
Kim Mimi Young - WOC- Washington, D.C. 4/9/2003
Bella Evangelista - WOC - Washington, D.C. 8/16/2003
Emonie Kiera Spaulding - WOC- Washington, D.C. 8/20/2003

Why not have a ceremony with locals that knew those murdered and experienced the loss personally? They haven't been in the national media the way Drew Phoenix has, but this isn't supposed to be about a photo op. Last year, Ethan St. Pierre eloquently explained how offensive this is. Ethan is the maintainer of the list of the dead for the project. Ethan's aunt, Debra Forte, is one of the dead on the list.

He writes:

An Open Letter to the Transgender Community

"There are only thirteen people on the list this year?"

That was the first sentence in an email that smacked me in the face just days before The Transgender Day of Remembrance event. That was the email that smacked me in the face just after I'd spent hours updating the statistics and going over the entire list of transgender people we have lost to the unspeakable violence faced by our Community.

Hours later I received a phone call from a leader in our community who was complaining about how the Transgender Day of Remembrance was such a downer and that she wanted to have more of a celebration and to perhaps incorporate the day of remembrance into such an event and yes, even move the event to the springtime so that Colleges and High Schools could still be involved. After all, the more the money-er.

The attempted manipulations and attempts to capitalize on the Transgender Day of Remembrance by some of our national organizations and so called leaders is nothing less than appalling and downright sickening.

The Transgender Day of Remembrance is not a place to put on your party hat, it is not a celebration of life, nor is it an opportunity for your organization to fund-raise, it should not be an event where the keynote speaker gets paid a lot of money to come and sell the latest autobiography and should not be a political event where people schmooze with their donors from a past political campaign and it most certainly should not be sponsored nor cosponsored by The Human Right's Campaign, an organization who can't even support us in a Federal Hate crimes bill!

Not in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that I'd have to write about such an issue and believe me when I tell you that there have been few things in my life that have been this painful and hurtful.

The Transgender Day of Remembrance still remains the one event where our community has come together as one to express our outrage, our fears and our sorrow for the losses we have endured, to honor and memorialize those who we have lost. It is a day to educate, not just society at large but the people in our own community who just don't understand the risks. It is a day of solidarity and I for one will not let that be lost and turned into something cheap.

I want to thank all the people around the world who have continued to coordinate events and who work tirelessly. Your commitment to the event and respect for its meaning is most certainly appreciated. For that, I'd like to say THANK YOU.

I just added another name to that list of people we have lost to anti-transgender violence and prejudice bringing the total up to 19. Is that enough?

Sincerely,
Ethan St.Pierre
Remembering Our Dead Project
http://www.rememberingourdead.org

In the memory of those who have died, I urge everyone in the Metro D.C. area to avoid this TDOR. Please do not take part in this abuse of our dead.

Cross posted from Transadvocate.com


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Wow. This is waaaay fucked up. Thanks for sharing the information.

That makes me sick enough to bark groceries.

As far as i can see this is the beginning of an attack on the TG/TS communities by HRC

I want to steal your button graphic and use it in my signature until HRC stops breathing it's own methane.

If they really care about those deaths - they'll visit the communities affected to support them in this ceremony. And let them lead. It's not like any of us feel at home in the HRC mansion.

But no, they can't even let us morn without slapping their corporate logo on it. Everything is a fund raising opportunity. Everything is about them. HRC won't hire a single transwoman - but they'll use our deaths to polish their images.

I feel ill.

well Kathy HRC are cultures and political whores.

I don't support them and i take every opportunity to tell people to do likewise.

Take care
Sue Robins

First, let me state that I am not a fan of HRC. Y'all know what I mean. 'Nuff said.

However, I am concerned about the type of rhetoric that is getting tossed around here. Let's not abandon our critical thinking skills. Let's not automatically assume that everything HRC does is evil, or that everything we read online is true. Maybe Marti's analysis of HRC's event is accurate, and maybe it isn't.

Now, let me also state that I don't know much about this particular event other than what I've read here. But I see some holes in what I've read here...

“Showboating”? The purpose of HRC is to raise awareness of LGBT issues. They do that by getting as much attention as possible. How do you infer from such a short press release that there will be some sort of inappropriate showing off? Marti, aren't you a little bit guilty of showboating in the title of your post, “The Selling of Our Dead?”

“... they chose Rev. Drew Phoenix, a white transgender pastor from Baltimore, rather than someone of color from Washington D.C.” Okay, why is a white pastor offensive, Marti? We all know that transpeople of color are more at risk, but objecting to someone based on the color of their skin? Woa! And why is a DC speaker more appropriate than someone from Baltimore? HRC is a national organization, not a local one. Rev. Phoenix is taking a lot of heat from the conservative right for being trans. What is your beef with his selection?

“They chose the comfort of the HRC corporate headquarters...” This is just silly nit-picking. There are already many local TDOR observances. More would be welcome, but that's not HRC's mission.

“... this isn't supposed to be about a photo op.” You're correct that it's not about a photo op. But we DO have to communicate our message to the larger community. Yes, TDOR serves to honor our dead and provide solidarity and comfort to a grieving community, but it also reaches out to those who do not yet understand or identify with our community.

Finally, you quote Ethan St. Pierre's “Open Letter to the Transgender Community.” I have no argument with the contents of his letter, and happen to share many of his views. But what does this have to do with HRC? Nowhere in his letter is HRC mentioned. If it's about HRC, then just say so. Otherwise we are reduced to rumors and innuendo.

Now maybe you all know more of the facts behind this matter than I do. If so, then please share them with all of us. Otherwise it's just too easy for all of us to fall back on our feelings of hurt and outrage over HRC's ENDA debacle (and many other incidents, I know). Despite their recent blunders, maybe they are sincere about helping the trans community.

Again, I'm no fan of HRC. People of good conscience are always going to have disagreements about how to get things done. But let's not waste our time with so much infighting when there are bigger battles to be fought.

I'm a member of the HRC and wasn't aware of the Transgender Day of Remembrance until learning about it through the HRC. I appreciate the additional background information you provided on its origins.

Here in Orlando, a transgeder person recently spoke at one of our monthly gatherings to help educate and raise awareness of the experiences of transgender persons. One young HRC member was deeply impressed and made a YouTube video about his desire to learn more. Please see:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQx7Q8Mp9rQ

You seem to harbor a lot of anger and resentment towards the HRC. But, please know that the HRC is on your side in the struggle for equality and human dignity for all persons. We are your brothers and sisters.

However, I am concerned about the type of rhetoric that is getting tossed around here. Let's not abandon our critical thinking skills. Let's not automatically assume that everything HRC does is evil, or that everything we read online is true. Maybe Marti's analysis of HRC's event is accurate, and maybe it isn't.

You actually think saying "Maybe Marti's analysis of HRC's event is accurate, and maybe it isn't" is using critical thinking skills? Maybe George Bush is a good president, maybe he isn't?

“Showboating”? The purpose of HRC is to raise awareness of LGBT issues. They do that by getting as much attention as possible. How do you infer from such a short press release that there will be some sort of inappropriate showing off? Marti, aren't you a little bit guilty of showboating in the title of your post, “The Selling of Our Dead?”

NO. You must not be trans. TDOR is a sacred day that is NOT to raise awareness of LGBT issues. It's about memorializing our dead. Selling our dead is EXACTLY what they are doing, by using this day as a photo op.

Okay, why is a white pastor offensive, Marti? We all know that transpeople of color are more at risk, but objecting to someone based on the color of their skin? Woa! And why is a DC speaker more appropriate than someone from Baltimore? HRC is a national organization, not a local one. Rev. Phoenix is taking a lot of heat from the conservative right for being trans. What is your beef with his selection?

This isn't a "National Day of Remembrance", but a local one. And you must not have read the list. The majority of transgender people murdered are poor African American transgender women. My beef with his selection is that DC is a HOTBED of transgender murders of women of color, not white transmen. If you need a refresher, Baltimore is not in the Metro DC area. My beef with his choice is that he is not representative of those murdered, and he isn't local. There are plenty of folks in DC, like Earline Budd, who are much more in tune with THOSE PEOPLE THAT ARE AFFECTED.

They chose the comfort of the HRC corporate headquarters...” This is just silly nit-picking. There are already many local TDOR observances. More would be welcome, but that's not HRC's mission.

If you knew anything about TDOR's, they aren't usually held in front of office buildings. It's like a church service, not a press conference. You may not have respect for our dead, but they should.

"this isn't supposed to be about a photo op.” You're correct that it's not about a photo op. But we DO have to communicate our message to the larger community. Yes, TDOR serves to honor our dead and provide solidarity and comfort to a grieving community, but it also reaches out to those who do not yet understand or identify with our community.

Wow, so the founder of the TDOR is wrong? Those with loved ones that have died are wrong? HRC isn't a transgender organization. They have NO BUSINESS putting on a TDOR.

Finally, you quote Ethan St. Pierre's “Open Letter to the Transgender Community.” I have no argument with the contents of his letter, and happen to share many of his views. But what does this have to do with HRC? Nowhere in his letter is HRC mentioned. If it's about HRC, then just say so. Otherwise we are reduced to rumors and innuendo
.

A. Ethan St. Pierre is my best friend, so I think I'm pretty aware of his intent.

B. You need to read more closely. Ethan said : "and it most certainly should not be sponsored nor cosponsored by The Human Right's Campaign, an organization who can't even support us in a Federal Hate crimes bill!"

Now maybe you all know more of the facts behind this matter than I do. If so, then please share them with all of us. Otherwise it's just too easy for all of us to fall back on our feelings of hurt and outrage over HRC's ENDA debacle (and many other incidents, I know). Despite their recent blunders, maybe they are sincere about helping the trans community.

BLUNDERS? Maybe? And Maybe I'm Princess Diana.

Again, I'm no fan of HRC. People of good conscience are always going to have disagreements about how to get things done. But let's not waste our time with so much infighting when there are bigger battles to be fought.

You may think our dead don't matter, but I do. I don't think our dead are a "waste of time."

I can't speak for Marti, in the larger view of things Marti and I don't see eye to eye on many issues. Given that I shall speak for myself.

I have been on organization comities for this event for four years.(2001-2004) This is the only event i regularly attend outside of the support/social group i am president of.
The Transgender Day of Remembrance has been a
grass roots driven event. The event has been put on by TG/TS people for TG/TS people. The running of this event should be left up to T-People not stuffed shirts from an organization that has not done a Damned thing for the TG/TS communities.

TDOR is an event of great sadness where we all come together to recognize those who had to give up their lives for being who they are. This is not a party and the event is suppose to be a real downer.

Lastly;
HRC has demonstrated over the years that your my and everyone's civil rights are available to be sold off to the highest bidder. I am partially sighted (don't ever use the phrase visually impaired around me) I remember full well HRC's deal they cut with congressmen over ADA and how it left out food handlers who were HIV positive out of the bill. HRC can burn in Hell for all i care, they haven't done a damned thing for TG/TS folk before you sight the hate crimes bill.... All Crimes of Violante are Hate Crimes. segregating out a crime against a protected class of person does nothing but out that person in a setting he or she may not want to be outed in.

If the HRC were disbanded today the lives of disabled and transfolk would be better off.

This latest maneuver by HRC is a sorry attempt to gain credibility with the TG/TS communities. Hopefully it will be seen for what it is a half baked attempt to gain trust so TG/TS folk can be used and abused again.

Take Care
Susan Robins

Tom i am just going to come out and say it.

We do not want ANY involvement on behalf of HRC in OUR Event.

You People don't have the slightest idea what it is to be TG or TS so BUTT OUT.

Susan Robins

Tom,
You may be a brother of mine in this struggle, but HRC is not. Here is a good example.

There's a difference between HRC spreading the word, and HRC sponsoring a TDOR event. Especially the way it was put together, it's obvious this is a prop for HRC to have a press moment.

I've long since lost track of how many times HRC has been caught in a blatant lie regarding transpeople and rights by our community. Usually, as in this case, they quickly back down when it hits the media.

This is just one more example of how HRC not only has not learned its lesson, but actually does know better and chooses the low path anyway. Their lies have been clearly show over and over to be both willful and intentional and made at the expense of the poorest and most vulnerable in our community.

As I've written before, HRC not only doesn't support transpeople and our rights, but are, in fact, the avowed enemy of everyone in this community who believes that we are indeed one united community and equally deserving of basic American civil rights. As if we really needed more evidence, this is yet another confirmation that their credibility in Congress in speaking for our interests must not only be lessened, but must be eliminated in whole, and that authority placed in the hands of those who are worthy of that trust.

There's just no choice any more. We can't work with those who not only refuse to work with us openly and honestly, but actively and eagerly stab the working class LGBT community in the back to further their own elitist and bigoted agenda. We have to bring them down and expose them to the rest of the community for who and what they really are.