Emotional Transgender Day of Remembrance observance in Oakland
by Cynthia Laird
The mother of a transgender woman spoke of her unconditional love for her daughter and the names of 26 people who died this year were read during an emotional Transgender Day of Remembrance observance in Oakland Sunday, November 16.
Sharla Walker, a human resources manager, choked up as she described the love she has for her daughter, Tanajsha Thomas, who was among the 100 or so people in the audience and is the assistant coordinator for TransVision, the agency that sponsored the event. Walker said that she had long known her daughter was transgender, and has "unconditional love" for her.
"To me, you do not throw your children away," Walker said. "Tenajsha has to be who she needs to be."
She advised other parents to "listen" to their children.
"I already know not to judge," she added.
The 10th anniversary of the Transgender Day of Remembrance, and the third annual event in Oakland, took place in Nile Hall at Preservation Park. Organized by the TransVision, a program of Tri-City Health Center in Fremont, it commemorated the lives of those lost to violence and HIV/AIDS during the past year. Some of those who died, like 15-year-old Lawrence King of Oxnard, California, were well-known; he was allegedly shot and killed by a classmate in his middle school in February. Others, like a woman identified only as Fedra, who was found lying face-up in a pool of her own blood in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, were not.
"The elephant in the room is death," TransVision coordinator Tiffany Woods said. "And it's okay – we're here to celebrate lives and memorialize them. I look at it more as a somber wake-up call; if one more name is read off next year, it's one too many."
Berkeley City Councilman Kriss Worthington also spoke, telling the audience that the violence is not acceptable.
"Remember their names, remember their faces," he said.
Representatives from several local politicians also were on hand, including Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Oakland), Congressman George Miller (D-Martinez), and state Senator Ellen Corbett (D-San Leandro).
Woods noted that Miller, a key ally of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), met recently with transgender leaders to discuss the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the need to include gender identity.
Transgender Day of Remembrance ceremonies will take place in San Francisco this week. Tonight (Thursday, November 20), SF TEAM, the transgender empowerment group at the LGBT Community Center, will join with Trans: Thrive of the Asian Pacific Islander Wellness Center and El-La Program Para Trans-Latinas of Mobilization Against AIDS with an observance from 6 to 8 p.m. at the offices of Trans: Thrive, 815 Hyde Street, second floor. The program will include remarks from community speakers, a reading of names of known 2008 victims, and a vigil march through the Tenderloin to City Hall.
A Transgender Remembrance Shabbat will be held at Congregation Sha'ar Zahav Friday, November 21. At the service, people who have suffered from anti-transgender violence will be remembered with special liturgy, music, sermon, and the reading of names. That event takes place at 7:30 p.m. at 290 Dolores Street (corner of 16th).