Transgender Day of Remembrance Memorial Gathering
Wellington, 20 November – Agender NZ held a public Day of Remembrance Memorial Gathering for transgendered people who have been victimised, harmed, or killed because of violence against people of different gender identities or presentations.
The Memorial Gathering was opened just after 7pm, by AgenderNZ Organisor and President, Claudia, who welcomed the 50+ people who turned up,
“… We felt it was a really, really important thing to acknowledge those of us that, basically, had our lives stolen from us.”
Candles were lit – each one representing a known or unknown person of different gender identities, who has been killed.
“The event itself started in San Francisco in 1999, and is now held in many places around the world.”
The gathering listened to Claudia and other speakers, who voiced their feelings on the loss of life around the world, and the harassment that many still experience.
“I want to acknowledge the courage of the people who have had their lives taken in this awful manner… there’s something about those people that their killers will never have. These people had either found their true selves or were on their way to finding their true selves. I truly doubt that those that took their lives will ever comprehend that, or have any real understanding of their own true self. If they did they would be very ashamed of themselves...”
Claudia said that whilst “transpeople in New Zealand generally do not fear for their lives… I can recall somebody that I knew, not very far from here, in Upper Hutt, two years ago, Dixie Jones, was brutally beaten to death. So we are not immune…“.
Claudia then introduced Brazilian-born, Dayna, to read out a list of 40 transgendered people, from many parts of the world, who had been killed. Dayna revealed that she was in pain at having to read out a roll call of so many victims, but regardless, spoke with a quiet passion and dignity, reciting nearly 40 names, along with their ages, and their country.
Many were young people, in their teens. The youngest was 16.
Dayna started with Charmine Rosa, 25 years old…
As Dayna read out the names, the secretary of AgenderNZ – Denise – knelt, and blew out a candle. The snuffing of each candle symbolised the senseless snuffing of a human life.
At the same time, Claudia rang the bell – once – for each victim,
At the end of Dayna’s roll call, Claudia added,
“… the last time I did one of these was in 2007. The list was seventeen names. It’s not a good look that it’s now up to thirtynine. We still have a lot of work to do.”
Claudia then invited people from the gathering to come up to the microphone and express their thoughts and feelings.
First up, Kay spoke on behalf of two people, Ashley and Julianne Kramer – the latter having been killed on 8 November, in a helicopter crash in the South Island.
Kay spoke of the double tragedy regarding Julianne’s circumstances; her death; and the fact that her family wanted her described as a male and previous name, “Julian”,
“I’m just going to mention another friend, whose life was taken from her. Not because of the manner of her death recently, but Julianne, when she died in a helicopter accident, her family couldn’t bear to live with her as Julianne and so they got the newspaper to use her earlier name, and to take back the life that she had built for herself, take it from her in her death.
So I wanted to remember the life that Julianne had made for herself, not the life that her family had tried to push upon her.”
Remy told us of three young people who – under pressure from constant bullying - had over the last year either attempted or eventually committed suicide. Their ages ranged from 17, 19, and 21.
Alexandria (tall woman with a cap on), led a group to the microphone.
She lit two bright pink candles – one for Ashley, had been a former flatmate and, one for Andre.
Alexandria spoke warmly of Ashley, her vibrance, her love of pink, and how she tried to cope with systemic rejection but how it was too much for her. She said that Ashley had died because of disrespect by authorities and the hospital. Alexandria was accompanied by friends who knew Ashley.
Alexandria also spoke about her late partner, Andre, who died from health complaints and who had also encountered the negative pressures from authorities. (Acknowledgement, Kay, for further details.)
And others who had the courage and/or need to say something,
Claudia with Green MP, Mojo Mathers, who attended the gathering in a supportive capacity,
Claudia thanked everyone for turning up to the gathering and being part of the Memorial.
As Dayna said,
“We all bleed the same blood, it’s the same colour and it’s unfair of people to attack us…
… we’re all human at the end of the day and we all cry the same salty-tasted tears and we all bleed. This is my gender, this is what I am.”
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