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Statement on
11/20/02 for Transgender Day of Remembrance
by Jack Carrel
Executive Director, Lesbian and Gay Community Center of New Orleans
Director, Hate Crimes Project

I went back and forth about what I wanted to say today.  I thought about sharing some stories of the outrageous situations that have resulted in the murder of transgender people, or the courage shown by transgender people who are visible in the community, or the challenges transgender people face when trying to access services here in New Orleans.  But I realized that most of those would service to elicit an emotional response to get you do something.  But it’s not about getting emotional. 

 

It’s about responsibility and being good citizens. 

 

I often hear people say, “Aren’t transgender people really a separate group from gays and lesbians?”  “You know it’s one thing to talk to these Louisiana legislators about gay issues but you will completely lose them when you start talking about transgender issues.  They’ll freak.”  Or “let’s deal with the easier stuff first…gay youth, hate crimes against gays, then we can move on to transgender issues.”

 

All I can say is thank God, transgender people have not been so irresponsible and poor citizens.  Because if that were the case, the Stonewall rebellion might not have happened until much later.  We would have waited years longer for the first queer person to run for office in San Francisco.  And early AIDS & STD education would have been delayed and vital monies for early AIDS services would have been small.

 

And locally, we wouldn’t be discussing whether to expand the name of the Lesbian & Gay Community Center to include transgender.  The Transgender Community Center might well be discussing whether to include gay and lesbian. And rather than a Gay Pride, we would like to see improved. We would have no Gay Pride.

 

Thank God rather than trying to figure out who was part of what community and what would be most palatable to the general population,  leaders in the transgender community have stood up, done something and have stuck with the work even when it got rough which has continued to work to move our communities forward.

 

Audre Lorde once said, “I know that my people cannot possibly profit from the oppression of any other group, which seeks the right to peaceful existence.  We diminish ourselves by denying to others what we have shed blood to obtain for our children.  I cannot afford to believe that freedom from intolerance is the right of only one particular group.  I cannot afford to choose between the fronts upon which I must battle the forces of discrimination, wherever they appear to destroy me.  And when they appear to destroy me, it will not be long before they appear to destroy you.”

 

So my question to you today is…are you ready to be a responsible citizen of our community and ensure that the killing of people based on who they are stops?  Are you willing to stand up and make sure that when we talk about services and rights for our community, we include all the communities that make up the queer community?

 

If you are, great. Together we will create a community safe for us all. If you are not, please step aside because the rest of us are coming through.

 

Posted with permission. 11/26/02

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