Monday, 23 November 2009

Transgender Day Of Remembrance ceremony in Brighton

This particular ceremony had added poignancy in that Brighton had a recent victim of its own, Andrea Waddell, and Mr and Mrs Waddell were present. Also the Police and members of the local City Council.

The occasion (my very first) was solemn and moving. Much of the time was given to reading out the names of those around the world who had become victims of anti-trans hate crime during 2009. Each of the 60-odd persons attending was asked to read a name and whatever details were stated about the date, location and manner of death. It was voluntary to take part; but not many found they couldn't do it. It was awful to hear. When it came to my own turn (this happened twice, so many names) I felt very strange and quite shaky. But I spoke clearly; the victim deserved to be heard, and not lost in a whisper. Mrs Waddell read out Andrea's own name. She did so with dignity, and did not dissolve into tears. What a brave woman.

Josephine had come down especially to be present. We both spoke to the Waddells afterwards. We learned that Andrea was buried within two miles of my home, in a lovely spot looking at the South Downs. Jo and I went to see it next morning. It was a very windy, wet morning. We weren't sure which was the exact grave, and there was nobody around to ask. We were soaked by a sudden squall, but no matter. I will go back in the next two or three days, and lay two roses on her grave, one from Jo, one from me, from the bunch Jo brought down for me (I was putting her up for the night). And say a private prayer.

Mrs Waddell told me that Andrea had modelled clothes for a shop in Brighton near Preston Circus. They have a window display devoted to her just now. I'll find it.

Perhaps it was as well that Andrea - caring, articulate, pain-racked Andrea - was the focus of the ceremony. The endless recital of names might otherwise have been chilling and depressing. It was striking how many deaths occurred in Latin American countries. Perhaps (I am only theorising) there was something about the men in those countries, their upbringing or culture, that triggered ferocity when they discovered or were told that their girlfriends or sexual partners were not natal females. Something that took control. Something that turned them into murderers and beasts. Something that a mere 'OK' from the Pope will not reach. The victims were done to death in apartments and on the streets. There was no safe place. They were stabbed, shot, mutilated. It was horrible.

Do those in this country (and we have plenty of hate crime in the UK) who look down their sniffy noses at transsexuals, and declare us to be abominations and parodies and mental cases have any concept of the cruelty and brutality that lies further along their way of thinking?


  1. To answer your last question there Lucy, the answer is no. I would defy anyone with an ounce of human DNA in their body to have been there on Saturday with the Waddells and the memory of so many others lost in equally tragic circumstances, and not feel compassion and rage.

  2. A lot of people say it's Latin blood, but I don't know how true that is.

    I think that we must all bring our children up (especilly boys) to respect one another and be tolerant. Boys need to be taught to respect all women, whatever their background or chosen life styles.

    I think that you and Josephine were so brave to stand up and read the names out, I'd have been in floods of tears.

    My dad's ashes are in a similar place to where Andrea is buried. I hope that that place gives as much comfort to her family as (a similar one) does to mine.

  3. Josephine, I can feel the compassion and rage from here, hundreds of miles away. In a settled, rural community it's all too easy to ignore these tragedies and kids oneself that TS life is about fulfilment, rediscovered contentment, and little else.

    I choose my words carefully now, in the hope that I don't upset anyone. On November 8th I was at a very different Remembrance Service. It was very dignified; the RBL was there in force, together with members of the armed forces and other uniformed organisations. Together we sung hymns like 'Onward Christian Soldiers' and 'Valiant Hearts' with gusto. The Last Post was as moving as ever, but no-one in our little community seemed to have been affected directly by recent conflicts, so we felt comfortably detached from that which we gathered to 'remember'.

    The service you attended on Sunday couldn't have been more different. I wish we could all be confronted afresh with the heart-wrenching results of man's inhumanity to man. Perhaps we just might then strive harder to bring tolerance, understanding and peace to our stricken world.

  4. Anji is so right! It starts at home, with the way parents raise their little boys. From the very beginning, most parents place a premium on being manly. The child's immature mind picks up on this, and the same goes for his peers. That immature idea of manliness then gets reinforced over and over again on the playground, until the child's self-worth becomes dependent upon how manly he is perceived by his peers. Gay and trans folk are then seen as betrayers of the order, and looked upon with scorn. In extreme cases, where the man is particularly insecure about his own masculinity, that scorn can turn to outright hatred, which is sometimes expressed in physical violence against gay and trans people.

    Parents need to stop pushing their little boys to be miniature versions of men, and allow them to be the gender neutral beings that they are actually created as. As they grow older and go through puberty, they will assume a more natural and healthy masculinity, free of the pressure to live up to the artificial and immature standard of manliness, that is so pervasive in our culture.

    Melissa XX

  5. ".....have any concept of the cruelty and brutality that lies further along their way of thinking?"

    I'd have to answer, Yes... Lucy. Many of them do.

    I have met people who would have stood there by the Waddells and jeered at them.

    But then my personal experience of human hatred, and the lengths it can go to, is perhaps rather wide. :-(


  6. Oh dear, Chrissie, it sounds as if you have a sad tale ot two to tell sometime. I count myself very, very lucky to have lived my life so far pretty well unscathed, apart from ordinary grief. But I know that at any moment I could become a casual victim of transphobia. Same for us all. Sigh.


  7. I'm really not sure Chrissie. Perhaps I am naieve...very likely so...but I think it would have been a very rare, subhuman beast, who would have done this at the ceremony on Saturday. With this broken family in front of them, the police, the council, the show of strength and solidity.

    It would have been like a Nazi defiling a war memorial right in the middle of a remembrance service.

    I'm sure such people exist. There are many examples in history of such people of them demonstrating their pure evil. But they would have been beaten off by the love and care in the room had they dared to show their faces.

    Thereagain, of course, they would never have been there. Trans people are murdered privately, in their own homes, or on dark streets.

  8. And by the way, I agree, Anji and Melissa, that teaching boys 'to be men' is a terrible thing to do, just as sometime ago it was recognised that forcing girls to be young mothers tied to a life of drudgery, and denying them proper education and career opportunities, was stultifying and indefencible and a waste of half the population's talent. Stereotyping and so-called initiation rites that fix one early into a predetermined adult role are a misconceived throwback to ignorant times, and as barbaric in their way as clitoral removal or circumcision by tribal elders.

    And that's a rant if ever I saw one!



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