Today is the Transgender Day of Remembrance. It is a solemn day where our community comes together to remember and honor those lost to anti-transgender hate and violence. The list is horrifically long this year, with 16 new names added to the list.
One of those names, however, hits me especially hard- Simmie Williams Jr. Simmie was a 17 year-old kid who was shot and killed in Fort Lauderdale. The murderers have still not been caught.
Our community in South Florida has done its best to rally around Simmie's family- holding vigils, raising money, and keeping pressure on the police to find the killers. Through this process, my husband and I have gotten to know Simmie's mother- a woman who has turned unspeakable tragedy into a call to action.
She is my hero.
My husband walked the streets of Fort Lauderdale with Simmie's mom and family, hanging reward posters and talking to people to try to get information. We've sat and talked with the family, hugged and cried together. We marched hand in hand in protest together.
And through it all, Simmie's mom has been a rock. She had her baby taken away because of hate, but has refused to let it break her. Since Simmie's murder, she has become an outspoken activist for the LGBT community, fighting everything from hate crimes to school bullying to Amendment 2.
She has been everywhere, doing whatever she can to make sure what happened to her child doesn't happen to another family. She has been an inspiration to watch and a privilege to stand beside. Through it all, I've gotten to hear about her child, the stories every parent knows- scraped knees, family dinners, hopes and dreams. I've gotten a glimpse at who Simmie was through the love of a mother.
So as we observe today and look at the too-many names on the list, take a moment and imagine the lives that were shattered and what we can do to make sure this stops. Take inspiration from Simmie's mother, as I do, and fight for change.
These are not just names on a list- they are our brothers and sisters. They are our family.