Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance. On this day, we honor the memory of those whose lives were lost in acts of anti-transgender violence. Over the past eleven months, in this country, the murders of 26 transgender people have been reported, making 2016 the deadliest year on record for transgender people in the United States. This number does not include unreported or uninvestigated deaths, nor the victims who were misgendered by police and the media. Almost all the victims were people of color and even more specifically black trans women. There is also a national epidemic of suicide among transgender people. In our own UMBC community, we experienced such a loss in October (due to the family’s request for privacy, the University and FSA have not made public statements with our community member’s name or information about her death; we nonetheless feel the loss keenly). We write this letter with a heavy heart and in memory of these individuals. We write this letter in support of and with love to our UMBC transgender students, faculty, and staff. We see you. You matter.
Honoring Transgender Day of Remembrance every year is important, and as we still grieve the loss of 49 LGBTQ+ community members (the majority of whom were also people of color) murdered in the Orlando Pulse massacre, we find our commitment to supporting transgender people and affirming the LGBTQ community to be more critical than ever.
The LGBTQ Faculty and Staff Association was established in 2013 to advocate for the rights and safety of LGBTQ faculty, staff, and students at UMBC. When we were founded, marriage equality was not law in Maryland, transgender state employees and students could not count on health coverage as they transitioned, same-gender couples faced an economic penalty if they chose to have their partners covered by their health insurance, and there was no coverage available to LGBTQ people who relied on reproductive technology to grow their families. In such a short time since the LGBTQ FSA’s founding, Maryland passed marriage equality, the Defense of Marriage Act has been overturned, and critical executive orders were made to ensure safety of the LGBTQ community. While there was still so much work to be done, most especially for transgender people, we celebrated the great strides our community has made.
However, much of this progress is now in jeopardy. For example, the new presidential administration has promised to overturn executive orders that prohibit discrimination against transgender federal employees and contractors and to withdraw federal guidance that protects transgender students in public schools and universities. The new administration would also have the power to reinstate a ban on transgender military service, and in the repealing of the Affordable Care Act, end coverage of transition-related health services for transgender people. There are many additional potential consequences for the LGBTQ community more broadly as well. Further, post-election, we are already seeing increased acts of violence and hate crimes committed against transgender individuals, the LGBTQ community at large, and other marginalized communities, including Muslims, people of color, and immigrants. We are most concerned about our community members who hold multiple marginalized identities (such as trans immigrants of color). Consequently, we write this letter with resolve to express our ongoing commitment to advocacy for our transgender community members (and our LGBTQ community members more broadly), and advancing social justice values on behalf of all members of our UMBC community. We are proud to work at UMBC, where it is an explicitly stated part of our University Vision that we strive for “excellence in higher education through an inclusive culture that connects innovative teaching and learning, research across disciplines, and civic engagement.” We want all members of our community to know that we will continue to fight through every presidential administration to ensure our hard-fought civil rights will not be diminished, and to ensure that we continue to move forward in creating a culture that is ever more safe and inclusive for all members of our community.
Many of us are searching for what we can do. For members of our community and allies of our community who would like to take action now, here are some suggestions for steps you could take:
Be connected to others. We recognize that our strength comes from our collective power to engage in conversation and to reach out to others. We must build bridges and extend our community to other vulnerable communities who have been singled out through the elections and are concerned for their rights and safety - immigrants, people of color, Muslims, women, people with disabilities, survivors of sexual violence. We also see you and you matter to us.
Learn. To learn more about Transgender Day of Remembrance, visit the TDOR website. Go to events, read about the history of the LGBTQ community and the various intersecting identities each member of the community holds.
Help. There are thousands of social justice organizations that have been and will be working together for an inclusive future of justice, equity and freedom for all. And, we’re all going to need your support. Make a gift to an organization you love that works for justice. You may also want to consider donating to UMBC programs dedicated to supporting our LGBTQ community on campus such as the Women’s Center and Student Life’s LGBTQ Programming.
To the LGBTQIAA+ students, staff, and faculty members who are not members of the LGBTQ Faculty and Staff Association, we want you to know that you are not alone. We are here with you (you can contact us at lgbtfsa at umbc.edu) to provide support and to plan for the next steps in the social change that must happen. Stay connected to us by following our myUMBC group page.
Members of the LGBTQ Faculty and Staff Association