Friday, November 30, 2018

We are all the children of Harvey Milk

I think it must have been about 1970 that these two guys came to give a talk at  St Andrews University where I was a student.

They were from an organisation called "The Scottish Minorities Group" and I think they were giving a talk about homosexual peoples' rights. 

I don't think it would have been gay rights because I don't think the word "gay" was really used back then.

i was 20 years old and it was the first time I'd met out gay men. The gay men I'd met up to that point - and especially the two gay men who wanted to have an affair with me - were both firmly in the closet.

I loved one of them very much but i was so terrified of my identity and my sexuality that I could not really act on my feelings at all and he was so ashamed of being gay and so worried about losing his job if he was found out  that our relationship never came to anything.

You have to remember that at that time our relationship was against the law. And if we so much as held hands we would be arousing suspicion.

I wanted to hold hands. The fact I couldn't so hurt me.

And it all added to the trauma I was suffering because I was trans. Though I couldn't really define myself as that because the word didn't exist.

What I was was unspeakable.

And there i was at that meeting and those two guys made a very deep impression on me. Because they weren't making a big thing of it, really, they were just who they were and somehow they seemed to know they were OK.

It was years and years before I actually came across a single person that was trans - and they were so unhappy and bitter and miserable, poor loves, that they put me off transitioning for ages.

But still I've never forgotten those two guys even though there was only so much they could do for me and they really so helped me get started on my journey. The journey to accept and learn to like myself...

And every time I talk in public or perform in public or am generally out in public I think of them and hope that I'm doing perhaps as much good to the people I meet as those two brave men did for me.

I got asked to moderate, or chair, the launch event for this book and I almost didn't do it. One of the hazards of being a survivor of prolonged and profound childhood abuse is that you tend to assume you can't do things and I didn't think I really be able to do this. 

But then the book is about people who came out in the public and political sphere and the effect this has had on society and it interested me and I try not to listen to the voices who tell me I can't do things and anyway I'm not very good at saying no so I agreed.

And I'm so glad I did because on Wednesday night I found myself sharing a stage with the most amazing people.

Louisa Wall, who spoke about the moment she made marriage equality happen in New Zealand; Sunil Babu Pant, who spoke about being the first openly gay MP in Asia in 2008 and his success in having a 'third gender' identity option recognised for Nepali passports; Chris Smith who spoke about the moment he became the first British MP to come out; Hannah Bardell, the SNP MP in the present Westminster parliament speaking about coming out in that vile public school boy institution; Marco Biagi, former SNP MSP, speaking about the moment he steered the equal marriage law through the Scottish parliament; and Sarah McBride, the first trans woman to speak at a national party convention in USA.

She was charismatic, eloquent, amazing... so profoundly moving to share a platform with her. Her presence such a measure, such a powerful reminder of how far things have moved forward.

And all in the presence of the lovely Andrew Reynolds and his beautiful, inspiring book. A real privilege and joy to be there at the Scottish launch of it: to welcome its appearance and bless it on its journey through the world.

I think we all felt it in that room that night: the power of coming out, the power of being true to yourself, whatever your sexuality or gender,  and the bright light that shines in a dark world.

And then last night was the beginning of rehearsals for THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JESUS QUEEN OF HEAVEN. Another joy. Another powerful reminder.

Queen Jesus says:  "We all have a light inside us, and sometimes it's the very thing we've been taught to be most ashamed of. And if you have a light, go you hide it in a closet? 
No, you bring it out into the open where everyone can see it. And be glad it exists to shine in the world....."

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Honouring a few of our dead

We were marking Transgender Day of Remembrance and we couldn't read out all the names.

We used to be able to, but the number grows each year and now there are too many.

Alex, the celebrant, had brought this very beautiful tree into church.

It represented the tree of life.

Each leaf had a name, and each name belonged to a trans person murdered last year.

Murdered just for being who we are.

When the time came, he suggested we each take a cluster of leaves off the tree and take them home.

And find out what we could about each name.

And by the end, the tree was completely bare.

And so I went home, and this is the story of the names I found.

Bruna Ferrari was killed on the fifteenth February 2018 in Concórdia do Pará, Brazil.

It is not known how she died, or why, or anything about her.

Except that she was 17 years old.

Verónica Carvajal was killed on the 27th November 2017 in La Paz, in Bolivia.

She was 25 years old, and she worked in a bar.

She was strangled by her partner, Carlos Alberto V, because she was the breadwinner and had refused to give him the money she had earned that night.

Macumba was killed on the 11th November 2017 in Veracruz, Mexico. No one knows how old she was, or what she did for a living. Someone ran her over with a car. And then they fled.

They have not been found.

Lucky Salavuki was killed on the 17th May 2018 in Suva, Fiji. There was a massive wound in her head where she had been hit by a large stone.

She was found on the foreshore lying in a large pool of blood. She was 23 years old.

She was an activist, who had recently come out as trans, and she was excited about contributing to the movement to improve transgender peoples lives.

Her friends described her as an outgoing person who was always happy to make other people smile.

Rafella Rotocalco was killed on the 11th September 2018 near Rome. Her body was found on a beach.

The cause of death is not known. Her age is not known.

She came from São Paulo, Brazil, was stunningly beautiful and worked as a sex worker.

Lorrany Lhoane Oliveira was killed on the the 26th December in Santaluz in Brazil.

She was tortured to death.

She was 18 years old.

Blanca  was killed on the 27th January 2018 in La Vega in the Dominican Republic. She was a sex worked. Her age is unknown.

She was stabbed. There were no witnesses. Her murderer has not been found.

Chandraiah was killed on the 26th May 2018 in Hyderbad, India. Her occupation is listed as, quote, other.

She was 52 years old. She was beaten to death by a mob who had gathered in the mistaken belief that she was a child kidnapper.

Charly  was killed on the 22nd March 2018 in Puebla, in Mexico. She was a hairdresser and beautician.

She had been suffering aggression from strangers for quite a while.

On that date they entered her apartment and decapitated and dismembered her.

She was 25 years old.

Marilyn Cipriany Guzmán was killed on the 30th December 2017 in Medellín, Columbia.

Two men drove up to her on a motorbike while she was walking in the centre of town. One shot her three times and left her bleeding. Then he got back onto the motorbike and they drove away.

She did sex work. She was 19 years old.

Not long before her death she gave a newspaper interview in which she said that whenever she tried to get a job or go into a shopping centre she suffered insults and discrimination.

But this did not happen to her on the street, she said. "People think that because people like me work on the street, we have no morals. But we are human beings and we have the right to equality."

Jessica González  was found dead on the 11th January 2018 in Veracruz, Mexico, two weeks after being reported missing.

She was a sex worker. The cause of death is unknown. Her age is unknown.

Phylicia Mitchell was killed on the 23rd February 2018 in Cleveland, USA.

She was 45 years old and a hairdresser and beautician.

She was shot in the chest in the street outside her home.

Her partner Shane said "Everyone loved her. She was just so funny and so kind".

Krispim Sousa de Araujo was killed on the 14th August 2018 in Mossóro, Brazil.

Her age is not known. Her occupation is not known.

She was shot three times and dead on arrival in hospital.

Karla Patricia Flores-Pavon  was killed on 9th May in Dallas, USA.

She was strangled to death in her apartment. Her occupation is unknown.

She was 18 years old.

Maria Luisa Velásques Zuñiga was killed on the 12th November 2017 in Puerto Cortés, Honduras.

She was found in her apartment with twelve stab wounds to her chest and others all over her body.

She had visited her mother a fortnight before and had not mentioned being in any kind of trouble. Her family had asked the police to investigate her death because she meant no harm to anyone.

Her occupation is not known. She was 39 years old.

J. A. Marín Marín was killed on the 1st February 2018.

Their occupation is not known. They were 26 years old.

They were stabbed in the chest while out walking with a friend.

Linda was killed on the 26th June 2018 in Estado de Mexico, Mexico.

She was 30 years old. Her occupation is not known.

She was asphyxiated. She was found in the street with a bag over head.

Lohane was killed on the 23rd January 2018 in Governador Newton Bello, Brazil.

Her age is not known. Her occupation is not known.

She was stabbed by her boyfriend in a fit of jealousy.

Abya Passos Mantovanny was killed on the 15th September 2018 in Cuiba in Brazil.

She was a sex worker. She was 33 years old.

She was stabbed 15 times by her boy friend in a club.

Joan Thabeng was killed on the 11th November 2017 in Mohlakeng in South Africa.

Her age was not reported. She was a clerk.

She had been on her way to visit her boyfriend.

She had been dragged through the streets before being dumped.

Police appear to have made no serious attempt to find her murderers.

May they all rest in peace. May eternal light shine upon them.

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