Honoring those we lost to transphobic violence

T Clearwater, Staff Writer

Every Nov. 20 the LGBTQ community nationwide holds memorials and vigils for community members who were killed as a result of transphobic violence. In our events we often hold speak outs and teach-ins so that our community members can share important information and personal stories.
We also often hold special religious services and offer beverages and snacks at our vigils while having these services accompanied by music after the speaking.
This year I worked with many community members to put together a vigil at the Wisconsin State Capitol. Many of the other community members are a part of Trans Advocacy Madison or Transgender Madison, just two of our local groups for trans and nonbinary rights, social engagement and community here in Madison.
I was also part of organizing activities for a Trans Day of Remembrance at Madison College on Nov. 21. A vigil table was created in the Gateway with the help of some other GSA members and one of the advisors Emmalee Pearson.
The public event itself went well. One of our beloved community members and friend to many of us, SunShine, stepped in early to help lead the event when we had to do some program reordering. In my presentation before the name readings, I shared statistics about transphobic violence. I explained why it is important to always make sure to center Black and Indigenous people in advocacy and educational work as well as spoke about #MMIWG2S (Missing Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two-Spirits) and how large of an epidemic it is.
In addition, I shared some information on what a two-spirit is. As a person who identifies as one, I spoke about how harmful some misconceptions of our community are. As I spoke about two-spirits, I identified my own tribe and the struggles two-spirits face even in the Indigenous community. I ended my discussion by recognizing the history of the brutality towards two-spirits since the beginning of white invasion that we can understand gender here in the U.S. is based deeply off colonial construct and is greatly problematic due to its very nature.
Initially I planned to give some history of the cruelty towards two-spirits that fueled many extreme practices of assimilation and genocide of Indigenous people, but the emotional pain was starting to take its toll, so I cut it off early before I cried to start the name readings.
In the reading of names, I made sure to cover the two-spirit that was on the list and a member who is Latina took the Spanish names and anyone reported Latina/Latino for our reading of names that was shared by four readers.
There were short speeches made by each person who read names. Afterward, as I and other organizers started to place candles and turn on or light them, we had people going up to speak their minds and anything they had prepared for the vigil.
After everyone spoke, I announced that we had the candles lit and had placed the QR codes by each photo so that people can pull up each person’s individual page on the Human Rights Campaign’s website as well as that I would be playing a song by HGM, an Indigenous music label, about #MMIWG2S.
We decided to leave the electric candles out all night. Because I forgot something at the Capitol, I returned with my white sage and white sage candles to have a private moment of mourning for the two-spirit who lost their life in 2022, Acey Morrison. The candles could beautifully be seen from the street, and it continued to bring tears to my eyes.