Vigils Are Not Enough

I struggle with the Trans Day of Remembrance. I’ve been going every year for the last several years and this year was no exception, but to honest, I struggle with the TDoR. I struggle with vigils in general. By nature, I do not mourn quietly and I do not pray for peace or love or understanding. I cannot muster any gratitude for the fact that the dead are in a better place, only sorrow for their loss, rage for the injustice, fear for my own loved ones and bitter hatred for their killers.

I understand that not everyone feels this way. I understand that for a lot of folks the Transgender Day of Remembrance brings catharsis and healing, but I do not understand how you can hear that 238 trans* people were murdered this year, more than last year, and then listen to the gruesome brutality of murder after murder after murder be described to you and not be overwhelmed with silent rage while you sit quietly in your pew. I do not understand how lighting candles can be enough. I didn’t express this yesterday because I wanted to be respectful of other people’s feelings and needs surrounding something as painful and personal as this, but it does need to be said.

The deaths of our people make me furious. They make me rage inside and I want to harness this fury and use it to grind the bones of those who would hurt my people into dust. When they hurt us, kill us, threaten us I want to fight, I want revenge, I want to scream myself hoarse. To me, vigils feel helpless, vigils feel like defeat, and I love too many trans* people too dearly for vigils to ever be enough for me. I do not want to simply remember my dead, I want to avenge them. And I want to fight to keep the living alive.

I remember the first year I ever attended the TDoR memorial service and one of my best friends made me promise that if they were ever murdered for being transgender that I would make sure that cities burned as their funeral pyre. Knowing full well that this was not by any means within my power to guarantee, I promised. I promised because the request was not entirely literal (though with anarchists these things are always a tiny bit literal in some small, wishful, optimistic way), but the meaning was clear enough: “don’t stand around with candles reminding each other what a wonderful person I was, fight back. Fight to avenge me and fight to keep yourselves alive.” I promised because I believe that if you want peace you have to fight for justice, not pray for it. I promised, because if that’s how our deaths were memorialized then maybe they would stop killing us.

I certainly pray (or, I would if praying was a thing that I did) for a day when I don’t have to worry about our safety and I don’t have to be ready for a fight every time my partner and I leave the house, but until then I will carry my knife with me every time we go out in public, because I will rot in prison until I die before I will sit in a church and hear them read off my partner’s name.

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