How Do We Make The Transgender Community Part Of Our Conversation?
by Belinda Dronkers-Laureta on May 11th, 2016

Keeping Families Together

The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog

November 16, 2012

How Do We Make The Transgender Community Part Of Our Conversation?


She looks straight into the camera, calm and confident, sunglasses shoved on top of her head, hoop earrings with stones, a checkered shirt, long hair in a ponytail, and even in a black and white on newspaper print, her lips show glossy. But her name is on the list that will be read during the Transgender Day of Remembrance in Oakland, because she was transgender and murdered because of that.

She was Brandy Martell, murdered in Oakland this year on an April Sunday morning. Her murderer fired once at her genitals then put two bullets in her torso. They are still looking for him, even though the police have made this a “Priority One” investigation. Oakland’s police department has a 41 percent murder resolution rate and Brandy Martell’s murder is one of 109 Oakland has suffered so far this year. We may never know the cause of a rage so great that the murderer came back with a gun after he had already left just to kill someone born with genitals that did not conform to who she was.

They should have a “Pull Out All the Stops” category for murders like this one, because Brandy Martel is also one of 38 transgender persons to be murdered since last year’s Transgender Day of Remembrance. The list of murdered transgender persons that is read during that somber ceremony of remembrance has over 700 names on it. What can we do, what must we do, to stop this ferocious attack against human beings who merely want to present themselves to the world as who they actually are.

We are parents of a gay child. His coming out sent us on an expedition into a different world, one whose geography we are still learning. We use the term LGBT and studied what each of those letters mean and thought we knew. Then, one day, during the Prop 8 campaign, a transgender MTF asked us where she fits in all the slogans and press releases. We stopped short and realized that the T in LGBT is rarely included in any conversation. There are close to 700,000 transgender persons living in America. Attacks on them have a savagery all their own; a savagery that makes it futile to generalize other than to ask why. They are trying hard, have been trying for a while, to become part of everybody’s conversation. We haven’t been listening, we should listen and act.

Each year the Transgender Day of Remembrance is a few days before Thanksgiving. It is a stark juxtaposition: a day remembering all who were murdered, alongside a day set aside to give thanks for all our blessings. Maybe remembering is coupled with thanksgiving for not having been beaten or maimed or killed. How are we going to change this?

Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride


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