Gwynevere River Song Becomes 17th Trans Person Murdered in 2017

A bittersweet shadow of victory was cast of over Texas’s trans community. News spread early that Texas legislature abruptly ended its special session late Tuesday without passing a bill regulating the use of bathrooms by transgender people, a setback for Gov. Greg Abbott (R), who had called the 30-day session in large part to enact such a law. The victory was over casted by the weekend death of a 26 year old trans person in a Dallas suburb.

Just past 5 pm on Saturday, August 12, Gwynevere became the 17th transgender individual in the United States to be murdered in 2017. They were shot by someone in their home. Gwynevere died at home after an argument escalated into violence Saturday afternoon, reports the Daily Light, a local paper. Song was pronounced dead at the scene². The other person was transported to the hospital. Early details at this link, but note that they are misgendered and dead named by the media here. In fact, the media even misspelled their family surname. The Ellis County Sheriff’s Office is continuing to investigate.

Song was a 2015 graduate of the University of Texas at Austin.

Marcy Mosher, who identified herself as Song’s mother, announced on the victim’s Facebook page that services will be held on Monday, Aug 21 at the Wayne Boze Funeral Home, at 1826 US-287 Business in Waxahachie.

“I love you so much, you are missed so much I can’t figure out how I’m going to go on,” Mosher wrote. “I promise you I will carry out your wishes.”

Trans Pride Initiative, a Dallas-based advocacy group, reported that the community is welcome to attend the services for Song.

According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs¹, Song is at least the 17th trans person reported killed this year, and the second from Texas. Kenne McFadden was found dead in the San Antonio River on April 9. McFadden’s death has been ruled a homicide.

Transgender people face unprecedented violence, and discrimination. While we denounce the actions of #notourpresident concerning the death of a peaceful protester by a white supremacist, as minority leaders across the country asked for the trans community to stand in solidarity, we also ask those leaders to stand against the continued violence on trans people. Together we can over come hate and bigotry.

Rest in power, Gwynevere. Thank you for the beauty, thoughtfulness and imagination you brought to this world. May we honor your life and death by seeking justice for all our trans family.

The list of trans people killed in 2017

  1. Mesha Caldwell-Mississippi: 41 yrs. old RIP Jan. 4th
  2. Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow: Sioux Falls: 28 yrs. old RIP Jan. 7th
  3. Jojo Striker-Toledo, OH: 23 yrs. old RIP Feb. 8th
  4. Keke Collier-Chicago: 24 yrs. old RIP Feb. 21st
  5. Chyna Gibson-New Orleans: 31 yrs. old RIP Feb. 25th
  6. Ciara McElveen-New Orleans: 26 yrs. old RIP Feb 27th
  7. Jaquarrius Holland (Brown)- Monroe, LA 18 yrs. old RIP Feb. 19th
  8. Alphonza Watson – Baltimore (RIP. March 22), 38 years old
  9. Chay Reed – Miami-Dade ( RIP. April 19), 28 years old
  10. Brenda Bostick-New York City, 59 years old RIP April 25th
  11. Sherrell Faulkner – Charlotte, NC (RIP. May 16), 46 years old
  12. Kenne McFadden – San Antonio (RIP. June 6), 27 years old
  13. Josie Berrios – Ithaca, NY (RIP. June 13), 28 years old
  14. Ava Le’Ray Barrin – Athens, GA (RIP. June 25), 17 years old
  15. Ebony Monroe – Lynchburg, VA (RIP. July 2), 28 years old
  16. Tee Tee Dangerfield – Atlanta, GA (RIP. July 31), 32 years old
  17. Gwynevere River Song – Waxahachie, TX (RIP. August 12), 26 years old

Say their name, read them loud. Hate tried to erase them, but for them we remain trans and proud

 

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  1. National Coalition of Anti-Violence Program
  2. GLAAD’s Media Reference Guide on reporting on Transgender persons, and reporting of media mis-representation.
  3. TDOR or Transgender Day of Remembrance

Fashion Industry Embraces Diversity

By Sabrina Samone

The message is that there is beauty in difference and in the unexpected; indeed there is beauty in what was once considered the opposite. Contrary to what we have witnessed in the past month in American politics; Trump’s Tweets against Transgender people and his most recent support and defense of hate groups like the KKK, and Nazi’s, the fashion industry is the one medium, unlike film and music, that is giving a voice to diversity.

New Zealand Fashion Week is just days away and diversity is the theme. There is a call from big name Kiwi designers for diversity at this year’s model casting calls.¹ “This year we are getting requests from designers like Zambesi and Huffer for diversity, which is amazing,” Andrea Plowright from 62 Models told says. “Many fashion-forward designers want to see models who are Asian, black, Indian, transgender, mature etc., which I think is fantastic! There are no limits and no boundaries, which is wonderful to see and be involved in. We live in a global world and we all want to see equality and fairness.”

”If there is a star of this trend it will be in the form of beautiful transgender model Manahou Mackay, 18, who is picked to light up the catwalk for a number of designers.“  Fashion Week will be her moment to break into the industry big time,” said Plowright. In March, New York-based Australian transgender supermodel Andreja Pejic walked for Smith & Caughey’s in Auckland and left an impression on Mackay. “It was a major modelling moment for me meeting Andreja, she is an inspiration to me in so many ways,” Mackay said. “I’d love to use modelling as a way to travel and see the world. I’d also like to help people view transgender people as just normal. “Transgender is not the classic porn-star Barbie and not the drag-queen look. We’re just normal humans. And we do not need to be sexualized to be understood and accepted.”

Lauri Watt and Manahou MacKay.  New Zealand Fashion Week founder and director Dame Pieter Stewart says, “Long gone are the days where models are typecast to fit a certain, now-outdated standard. They are as unique as the many different designers and their collections showcased at the event. Fashion is about variety and diversity, and New Zealand Fashion Week is the platform that encompasses all of this.” Other models who break the traditional look this year could include Fiona Xu, who has shot for Harman Grubisa and Kate Sylvester; Sophia Frankish, a universal favorite; Lincoln Van Vught; Grace Huan, who is also a dancer; Lauri Watt and Horace Lee.

Recently at a New York Fashion show, Reshma Quereshi. A 19-year-old Indian woman whose vile excuse for a brother-in-law, flung acid in her face two years ago. She bears the scars, and they’re severe (she lost one eye), but she is beautiful, not least because of her strong spirit, and she became the start of the show.

Quereshi’s presence was guaranteed to secure headlines for the Mumbai-based designer Archana Kochhar, as well as help spread awareness about these venal cowardly attacks which happen more often than they should. But it also reflected a growing acceptance, in the Fashion industry and beyond, for a much broader definition of what’s considered beautiful today.

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Instagram archanakochharofficial

The production company that staged Kochhar’s show, FTL Moda, aims to introduce major diversity to the runway. Last season they cast Brisbane model Madeline Stuart, who has Down syndrome, in her second NYFW show. She looked wonderful.

On the catwalks of the U.K., the tide may slowly be turning on what once was considered taboo in high fashion; women sizes 12 and up.

Model and body positivity campaigner Ashley Graham has debuted her own lingerie range at New York Fashion Week, a collection created for the sizes persistently ignored by designers.

As well as showcasing covetable undies, she brought a much-needed change of pace to the models we usually see on the catwalk. “Every woman in the show has a completely different shape and we wanted to show diversity of shape and ethnicity and that’s what curvy women are,” she told Time Magazine.

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Models on the catwalk for London’s Plus Size Fashion Week UK

In recent years there’s been an explosion of transgender models hitting the runways of the world. The struggle, like various occupations in society has been a hard fight, but unlike politics, film and music, the closet doors of the fashion world has been kicked down possibly to the last under-represented group, transgender. Many have reached what was once called super model status; Lea T, Ines-Loan Rau, Valentijn De Hingh, Laith Ashley, Aydian Dowling, and Andreja Pejic to name a few.² The most recent and most diverse among the growing list of transgender models, is plus-size model Shay Neary.

Shay_neary

The inclusive fashion brand Coverstory has made history this year,  by casting the first plus-size transgender model Shay Neary in its latest campaign. Coverstory has a history of showcasing a diverse range of models of various races and sizes, but with this latest casting the brand identified Neary as representing a sector of its customer base that needed to be seen.

When speaking with Refinery29, Neary³ reflected on how difficult it was for her to find a designer to dress her, and the trend of new, diverse models always seeming to be photographed naked.

“Oh my god, the truest statement ever. I’ve done maybe eight to 10 naked shoots. I’m a new trans-plus model to the scene, but I have yet to find any designer willing to actually dress me for a shoot or book me an actual high-profile gig. They’re not willing to get you clothes. They’re not willing to find a designer to get you clothes for a shoot. [Photographers say] ‘We’re not gonna hide your body, we want your raw body.’ Hmm, how about [designing] some clothing for my ‘raw body’?

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While representation, and equality has been fought in every aspect of trans lives, and careers, it’s the fashion industry that maybe setting the example of answering that call. For years transgender advocates have demanded, along with all minorities and feminist groups, to represent a broader diversity of consumers.  Though representation is far from equal, the fashion industry is leaps and bounds ahead of careers in business, politics, music and film.

This week America was rocked by the tragic death of a peaceful protester in Charlottesville, VA. While America has a conversation on tolerance and equality, the fashion industry may hold a clue to how to achieve that. Visibility, has been the mantra of the modern trans person. Visibility and representation in print, film,  and where we shop does matter. Representation is the constant subliminal message that there are other people like me, yet it’s also a reminder that everyone who isn’t like me, matter and exist as well.

Conversations on equality cannot take place, until we have completed the conversation on equal representation of all colors, sizes, genders, and sexualities. It’s when we can grow up in a society that shows truly, that people are beautiful and matter that we can finally see an end to transphobia, racism and the differences that separate us.

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  1.  New Zealand Fashion Week is Aug. 28th- Sept. 3 2017
  2. 50 Years of Transgender Models
  3. Refinery 29’s Story of Plus Size Transgender Model, Shay Neary

Hawes-Tingey on Her Way to Making History as First Transgender Mayor in Utah

By Sabrina Samone

Sophia Hawes-Tingey appeared to safely advance to the Nov. 7 final election, and one step closer to making history in the small Utah town of Midvale, as the first possible transgender Mayor in conservative Utah.

She was running second among five hopefuls and appearing safe to advance with 24 percent of the vote. Hawes-Tingey trailed a former city council member of the town, who had 30 percent of the vote.

Despite recent tweets to call for a ban on transgender military personnel, Sophia is a US Navy Veteran, who has served her country proudly and desires to continue to do so as Mayor of Midvale, Utah. She’s a software engineer with a passion for advancing diversity and combating discrimination in all forms.

Sophia Hawes-Tingey acknowledges the historic nature of her campaign for city council, but she does not want to make it the focus of her race in this Salt Lake City suburb.

“I see myself mostly as a community servant who just happens to be transgender,” she told her local Fox News affiliate after she filed to run for Midvale’s City Council District 2.

If elected, Hawes-Tingey would be the first openly-transgender person to serve in public office in the state of Utah. Her race does bring increased visibility to Utah’s LGBT community, which has seen big advances within the past couple of years when it comes to same-sex marriage, non-discrimination in housing and employment and several openly gay candidates seeking political office.

When asked about the significance of her candidacy, Hawes-Tingey said she wants to talk to voters about fighting crime, improving neglected neighborhoods and fostering economic growth in Midvale.

“I know to the LGBT community, they see this as a message of hope. But this is a race about community values,” she said.

Hawes-Tingey said being transgender “is only one aspect of who I am.” She pointed to her service on the Midvale Community Council.

“I’m also a software engineer. I’m a Navy veteran, I’ve studied dance for a number of years,” she said. “I don’t define myself only on my gender identity.”

Still, her campaign has attracted the attention of national gay rights groups. She has the backing of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, Restore Our Humanity and the Utah Stonewall Democrats.

Hawes-Tingey is challenging incumbent Midvale City Councilman Paul Glover, who is seeking his fourth term in office.

Utah, the home of the staunch conservative Mormon church, has been going through a progressive transition in recent years, with several LGBT politicians, and more vocal advocates. While the town of Midvale is not known for diversity, it is one of the fastest growing suburbs of Salt Lake City, growing 17% since the 2010 census, with an average median income of nearly 54,000 per household. With it’s progressive growth, and the willingness to embrace possibly the first transgender politician in Utah, this could be the first light of progressive change taking root in Utah.

DONATE TO SOPHIA HAWES-TINGEY CAMPAIGN

Currently 7,000 has been raised in support of Hawes-Tingey’s campaign. We’re asking our Friends of TMP to share her story and urge those in your immediate community to give in order to empower transgender politicians, who maybe our only way to fight the fascism we face.

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When Being “Different” Could Mean Death

By Levi van Wyk

With 11 official languages and a variety of cultures, South Africa should be one of the top symbols of diversity in the world. The keyword here, however, is ‘should’. Like any other country, South Africans formed their own political groups advocating for various problems and personal belief systems, which in turn, either made life more difficult, or better for different people. According to the Hate Crimes Report of November 2016, out of 2,130 individuals surveyed, more than 55% of LGBT individuals said they worry about experiencing discrimination, and more than 41% said they knew someone who had been murdered because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Another Hate Crimes Report survey showed that only 56% of residents living in Gauteng, believe that LGBT individuals deserve equal rights. While most South Africans tend to tolerate the LGBT community in public spaces, in reality, we still have good reason to be wary when it comes to our personal safety.

Personally, I haven’t experienced much discrimination in public, apart from strange looks and awkward tension in gender-specific areas, such as the men’s locker room at the gym. I’m a white, asexual, transgender male, and only 5 months into my transition. I’m lucky to have a fairly masculine face and voice which sounds too deep to be female, but also too high-pitched to be male, making it a bit easier for me to pass successfully. In my early transition months, the general public used to address me as “ma’am”, and I had to politely correct them almost every time. They didn’t seem to ever have a problem with it, apologized and carried on as if they deal with a similar situation frequently. The, dare I say, “good” thing about South Africans, is that many people, if not most, don’t even know that transgender individuals exist, and would confuse transgender males with masculine girls or “tomboys”, and transgender females with feminine guys. I personally feel that, while it’s completely wrong and disrespectful, it can be better in regards to momentary safety and getting away with a few stares rather than being violated against. In general, I believe that most South Africans also confuse “transgender” with “transsexual”. While I can’t talk about a lot of problems in regards to the LGBT community in areas made up of a majority of non-white South Africans, I do know that being openly LGBT in said spaces could sometimes lead to abuse or even death.

While I was in my last year of university, various non-white students spoke about the violence and hate crimes against LGBT individuals in their areas of living, and said that it’s still unsafe to be open about your sexuality and gender identity. In areas made up of a majority of white South Africans, you could expect the same, with perhaps more verbal and psychological abuse. In my experience, white South Africans tend to keep their hate and bias to themselves in public, but would speak their minds where they are with like-minded people. A lot of white South Africans are extremely conservative, but they mostly live away from the cities and keep their focus on politics rather than social science. While the differences in culture vary a lot, it’s important to understand why certain people have certain beliefs. Thanks to Apartheid, education for non-white South Africans was lacking, which still has a huge effect on people’s opinions in regards to social science, sex and gender, and LGBT education. White people are generally more privileged, and can use the internet to educate themselves, where poorer non-white communities haven’t been introduced to proper technology yet. That being said, the previously-mentioned lifestyles and cultural beliefs only belong to a number of people in South Africa, and in no way represent entire cultural groups or belief-systems. Today, many, if not most, South African LGBT support groups and events are led by a majority of individuals of color. Different groups are educating as many people as possible, holding conferences, creating events, and offering support to people who might not have it at home. All cultures will have their “rotten apples”, and I personally believe that LGBT individuals should be equally wary of where and when they are open about their sexuality and identity. Cultural beliefs of all South Africans are in the process of being reformed, and people are becoming more open-minded in regards to others’ lifestyles. While we still have a very far way to go regarding the acceptance of LGBT individuals, we’re at least past the point of absolute inequality.

In previous years, many South Africans didn’t get involved in LGBT-related problems. Unfortunately, at the beginning of 2017, I noticed South Africans’ intolerance and rudeness in regards to LGBT rights spiking online. Suddenly, comment sections were flooded with angry comments from a majority of white South Africans, talking about how the LGBT community exists out of sin and doesn’t deserve to be treated as human beings. While South Africans tend to judge in silence, they speak their minds online, especially if they know they will be backed up by others. With the US election results, many conservative South Africans found reason to be outspoken about their outdated opinions. South Africans were indeed reminded of the LGBT community existing all over the world, but it didn’t stop them from picking the community apart, and finding issues to be judgmental about. While a lot of South Africans don’t exactly understand the LGBT community, they still tend to form negative opinions about the different sexualities, especially towards asexuality. As a result of sexual abuse in my previous relationship, I became sex-repulsed and severely asexual. I’ve been told by various people that I just haven’t experienced good sex yet, or that my views on sex will change when I meet someone better. While I understand that they are simply ignorant on the subject, it still reminded me that I live in a sex-obsessed country. South Africa is one of the rape capitals of the world, with an estimated 30 reported rapes every 60 seconds. Rape culture is also a big problem in the country, with high school boys aiming to have sex before the age of 18, and girls making their skirts as short as possible to feel attractive. All of these problems make being asexual extremely difficult, especially since people tend to believe that asexuality stems from the lack of good sex. It’s unfortunate. While a lot of LGBT individuals come together and celebrate their sexuality and identities, I feel like asexuality is probably one of the least represented sexualities in the country.

South Africa still has a very long way to go in regards to people’s different lifestyles. Despite studies showing that the country is becoming more homophobic, I believe that the country is also getting more diverse with more and more LGBT individuals speaking out about their sexualities and identities. Universities are making LGBT-education mandatory, and schools are starting to see more students transitioning and employing LGBT educators. With time, education and support, I believe this country will change for the better.

 

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO DISCUSS THIS OR ANY OTHER TOPIC ON OUR SITE, PLEASE JOIN THE CONVERSATION ON  THE TMP FORUM


African transgender support groups:
 Gender Dynamix
OUT LGBT Well-Being
PFLAG South Africa
Resources for Trans People and Their Partners SA
Transgender and Intersex Africa


Sources:
Theotherfoundation.org: A study of attitudes towards homosexuality and gender non-conformity in South Africa.

The fear of discrimination is a daily reality for most LGBT South Africans, a groundbreaking new report has revealed

Shocking new stats show that South Africans are becoming MORE homophobic.

 

Lessons of Leadership: A Review of TRANS/ACTIVE

Lynnea Urania Stuart

 

Committees are already gathering worldwide.  Their members, planning the next International Transgender Day of Remembrance (ITDOR, or simply, TDOR), take various approaches to what has become the international trans community’s most sacred event.  For planners and speakers, the new paperback, TRANS/ACTIVE: A Biography of Gwendolyn Ann Smith should be required reading.

It should not only be required for them, it’s a book that should be read by every trans activist and trans ally because it describes keys to success in securing human rights for a people for whom human rights was considered laughable for too long.  In a year when religious Dominionist forces seek to snuff out and erase the memory of a minority of minorities, it’s time to revisit what made the Day of Remembrance and trans activism as a whole so vital.

The story of Gwendolyn Ann Smith, the founder of the Day of Remembrance, and known by many of us simply as “Gwen”, is more than a transition story.  Unlike most of publications of that genre, this story tells the unfolding of a life of activism and a determination to fight the prevailing erasure through the preservation of memory.

Her approach to challenging others is clever and genteel, pointed and philosophical.  The reader may find the biography laced with quotes like:

 

“If all you’ve ever known of transpeople are late-night comedian jokes and fear-mongering about bathrooms, what would you think of transpeople?  Instead, let’s put an actual transperson in the room, and challenge those misconceptions.1

 

The author, Sophia Cecilia Leveque, pursued writing this biography after a synchronous “accident”.  It began with a Wikipedia edit-a-thon hosted by the Z. Smith Reynolds Library at Wake Forest University, where participants wrote about prominent members of underrepresented communities.  She chose Gwendolyn Ann Smith because the name “Gwendolyn” had enchanted her through other powerful writers who shared that name.  But when needing to reference her Wikipedia page, she found too little online biographical information.2

Ms. Leveque is a young writer of 23 years, competent, but not yet seasoned.  She recently graduated and now pursues a Master’s degree.3 She approaches the story in gonzo style, building upon personal interviews.  Her approach reveals a genuine candor, but at times seems apologetic:

 

“The clock struck five and I called.  Two rings and she answered, sounding breathless.  Was it possible she was nervous too?  Her voice was smooth, very much like her writing. She made a few jokes to put me at ease and said she couldn’t believe someone wanted to interview her.  I told her I couldn’t believe someone hadn’t already.  I could hear myself talking too fast, trying to fit as much into one interview as I could, in case she decided she didn’t want to have another call.  I asked many invasive questions without meaning to, but the hour flew by.4

 

Ms. Leveque succeeded in presenting a multi-dimensional activist.  Gwen Smith may be known best as the founder of the Day of Remembrance, but her activism began to blossom by tackling anti-transgender bias manifest in a ban on anything transgender by America On Line (AOL).  Gwen not only succeeded but continued to administer an online chat within the Gay and Lesbian Community Forum which became Transgender Community Forum, then The Gazebo..  Other online platforms would follow the lead of AOL.5

The importance of this contribution, too often overlooked, cannot be overestimated.  The Internet has been the most potent medium that brought together the modern trans community.  Much of today’s community may be found on online services like Facebook, Twitter, and GooglePlus; in fact today we find more transpeople socializing online than in support groups who meet at brick-and-mortar locations like liberal churches, LGBT centers, private offices, and gay bars.

The original connection between Rita Hester and the Day of Remembrance has long been well documented.6 But the death of Chanelle Pickett and its connection to the same has had far less billing, thought emphasized in TRANS/ACTIVE.  Both transwomen “of color” died in proximity to one another under similar circumstances but scarcely anyone connected them.  Gwen recognized this lacuna in what seemed like a milieu of collective amnesia, a sad internal failure deserving of indictment:

 

“Gwen was not only incredulous; she was angry.  These 2 cases were eerily similar and no one was making a connection between them_ there was simply no community memory.”7

 

This level of insight makes Gwen’s story so compelling.  It’s precisely this realization that has enabled many transpeople to rise up out of the underground, onto the streets and into the halls of government.  It’s a realization that comes from reserving the right to question why things are so; and also to look for ways to make change happen, however crazy creative ideas leading to solutions may initially appear.  This alone, apart from anything else, makes Gwen an example for activists everywhere.

The book, however, isn’t free from inaccuracy, even aside from the usual typographical issues that often bedevil first editions.  One instance particularly would have been difficult for any writer to catch unless she had been familiar with a civic organization’s modus operandī, therefore requiring further explanation:

 

“She [Gwen] was working on other social justice projects, as well.  She worked to get ‘the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to pass a health care benefits ordinance for transgendered [sic] city employees as part of the City and County of San Francisco’s Transgender Civil Rights Implementation Task Force.  This task force also mandated that all single occupancy bathrooms in the city would be gender neutral.’”8

 

The Transgender Civil Rights Implementation Task Force convened on June 1, 2000 in a conference room on the second floor of San Francisco City Hall overlooking McAllister Street.  The 17 voting members were required to be San Francisco transgender residents selected from 3 sources:  6 by Mayor Willie Brown, 6 by the Board of Supervisors, and the remainder by the Human Rights Commission, though the residency requirement was waived for a couple of members whose expertise City officials desired for the effort.  The City assigned the task force a 2-year mandate after the 1994 passage of Municipal Proposition L that gave local recognition for the civil rights of transpeople.  Task force members would evaluate how well the city had followed the will of the electorate.  They were also to recommend implementation for change in the City’s practices.  This task force was a source for reform in police practice, transition benefits, and became a springboard for later change in California civil rights law.  Statewide change took the form of AB 196 that passed in August 2003, making California the 4th state after Minnesota, Rhode Island, and New Mexico to recognize transpeople as deserving of civil rights.  But discussions for addressing state law began with this task force in October 2000 and the verbiage of AB 196 followed the pattern its members discussed.9

Of course, 17 members couldn’t carry out all they needed to do by themselves.  Worse yet, some task force members couldn’t continue their duties for long because of financial or other personal reasons.  Several committees convened at various times each month and various locations in addition to the general meetings at City Hall on the first Thursday of each month.  From the beginning, the task force filled these committee positions with volunteer transpeople who did not need to be appointed or be San Francisco residents but who also attended the general meetings in an outer ring of seats away from the conference table.  These volunteers had access to documents pertaining to committees and all documents of the general meetings including the cornerstone document from the Human Rights Commission titled, Compliance Guidelines to Prohibit Gender Identity Discrimination.  Everyone in the room had some role in trans activism.  However, these volunteers were not considered part of the task force.  They were assistants to the task force much like a clerk who works at the meetings of the Board of Supervisors is an assistant and not part of the board.  It’s a distinction too easily overlooked.

By 2001, the task force was in danger of losing a required quorum and began to take new appointees.  The Board of Supervisors considered Gwen’s appointment as a voting member in August 2001.10 The date of Gwen’s appointment is important to the narrative because it occurs after, not before passage of transition benefits.  Task force members and volunteers were talking informally about transition benefits back in 2000.  Supervisor (now State Senator) Mark Leno authored the measure and introduced it in January 2001.  Its introduction hit the U.S. news media like a bomb, inciting national ridicule from late night political pundits and comics.  Despite opponents’ attempts to make San Francisco a laughingstock over health care for transpeople, proponents rallied in March 2001 and the Board of Supervisors passed transition benefits on Monday, April 30, 2001 with a vote of 9-2.  Many trans activists were present at City Hall at the time of passage including Gwen Smith as reported by Janis Ryan of Transgender San Francisco, writing in The Channel.11

So while it’s accurate to say that Gwen worked for passage of transition benefits, she could only have done so as a volunteer in 2001, not as a voting member of the task force.  Her work as a voting member would have applied to implementing what had already been passed and the success of this program was well established by 2006.12 The author should make this distinction when preparing this book for any future printing.

Ms. Leveque’s book features what may be the most extensive appendix for a book of pocket size: a list of transpeople people unfairly killed since 1970, almost the time of the Stonewall Uprising and from Gwen’s own research.  This list alone is worth perusing well.  By Gwen’s own admission, this list is by no means comprehensive “due to lack of proper media coverage, incorrect police information, and an overall lack of available information, particularly from earlier years.”13

The list seems overwhelming, frightening, and poignant.  It’s a list any trans activist should have ready to hand and available for reference.  It invites everyone to say and remember the names, to defy attempts to erase the victims, and implicitly, all transfolk from the world’s memory.  It also invites us to do our own research, to question and compare.  Consider a sample for a single month as an example, as compiled from the Trans Murder Monitoring Project and the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT):

 

  1. Alejandra Leos, age 41, shot 9/6/2014 in Tennessee.
  2. Karen Alanis, age 23, thrown from a moving truck 9/10/2014 in São Paulo, Brazil, and died at 7 pm at a local hospital.
  3. Cris, unknown age, killed by a drive-by shooter 9/13/2014 in Foz de Iguaçu, Brazil.
  4. Unknown cross dressed victim, allegedly found burned in Los Angeles 9/15/2014. (The obscure story then cited as coming from NBC Los Angeles has not been verified.)
  5. Gabriel Lopez, age 46 and Marcela Lopez, age 46, killed 9/15/2014 in Medellin Antioquia, Columbia as reported from 2 sources but both may be the same victim. No details recorded.
  6. Billi Saeed, age 27, killed 9/22/2014 in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. No details recorded.
  7. Mahadevi, age 22, killed in Bangalore, India 9/24/2014. No details recorded.
  8. Bruna Lakles, age 29, killed 9/30/2014 in Brazil. No details recorded.
  9. Aniya Parker, age 47, fatally shot 10/2/2014 while walking home in Los Angeles. The LAPD and City Council offered $50,000 for information leading to the arrest of the culprits.14

 

Compare these names with Gwen’s list on pages 116, 117 for the same period:

 

  1. Alejandra Leos, Memphis Tennessee, USA, 2014, gunshot to the head.
  2. Karen Alanis, Caçapava, Sao Paulo, Brazil, 2014, thrown from a vehicle, ran over.
  3. Marcela Duque, Medellin, Colombia, 2014, stoned to death.
  4. Cris, Portal da Foz, Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil, 2014, multiple gunshot wounds
  5. Mahadevi, Malleshwara, Karnataka, India, 2014, pushed off a moving train.
  6. Bruna Lakiss, Várzea Grande, Mato Grosso, Brazil, 2014, gunshot wound.
  7. Gaviota dos Santos, Rio Largo, Alagoas, Brazil, 2014, 3 shots to the face.
  8. Aniya Parker, Los Angeles California USA, 2014, gunshot wound to the head.15

 

The differences are themselves instructive for any archivist and historian as well as any activist who contributes to the Day of Remembrance.  Billi Saeed and the unknown victim burned in Los Angeles do not appear in Gwen’s list.  Gaviota dos Santos does not appear in the TMM-IDAHOT list from that time, though she may have been recognized later and so may have slipped through the cracks of being remembered at some 2014 observances.  Gabriel (Marcella) Lopez appears on Gwen’s list as Marcela Duque.  Bruna Lakles appears as Bruna Lakiss in Gwen’s list.  Other details emerge when making comparisons.

This is a very good thing to do because of a grim fact.  One person cannot hope to gather and maintain a fully correct and comprehensive list from year to year and from one generation to the next.  Gwen can’t.  Neither can I.  It takes a collective, a coordinated network across generations and international boundaries.  Even then we can’t be entirely sure the facts are 100% correct.

But it says something more.  While the lists associated with observance of the Day of Remembrance tell us how transpeople, especially those “of color,” have became fodder for slaughter, they don’t say much about how these transpeople lived or what lessons they may have gleaned.  Today’s news articles often offer much more in this respect and we need to give these stories attention concerning their details.  We must do the best we can because these people deserve to be remembered, and to do otherwise may render the entire demographic forgotten by default as it has during much of human history.

But the main contribution of Ms. Leveque’s biography consists of presenting Gwen’s insight.  It’s evident in her admonition to allies.16 It’s also evident in Gwen’s statements about the intentions of ITDOR, a much more serious event than what has sometimes occurred.17 ITDOR has been exploited to merchandize LGBT centers and sponsors even to the point of them becoming like street vendors in an atmosphere resembling a fair.  When sponsors gain a greater voice than the names of victims and speakers talk about the progress of their own transitions instead of defying erasure, they could cheat an entire gathering of attendees who attempt to exercise the observance.18

Gwen’s insight is what this book will continue to contribute, details of which should be read and re-read.  The work Gwendolyn Ann Smith has performed over the years has enriched and unified the trans community and this book will continue that enrichment in good measure.  Personal details are incidental.  But remembering her principles and following her actions offer the best and most enduring compliment by which her activism will endure as a legacy.

 

 

TRANS/ACTIVE: A Biography of Gwendolyn Ann Smith

By Sophia Cecelia Leveque

Produced and distributed by Library Partners Press

Z. Smith Reynolds Library

Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem NC

www.librarypartnerspress.org

ISBN: 978-1-61846-044-8

 

Paperback, 127 pages

Available on Amazon

 

Proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to the National center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), Trans Lifeline, TransLaw Help, and the TransActive Gender Center in Portland OR.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO DISCUSS THIS OR ANY OTHER TOPIC ON OUR SITE, PLEASE JOIN THE CONVERSATION ON THE TMP FORUM

_________________________

REFERENCES:

 

Featured Image:  (clockwise from the left) The cover of TRANS/ACTIVE; a scene from the first ever Transgender Day of Remembrance on a drippy evening in the Castro in 1999, from the archives of Lynnea Urania Stuart, source is an unknown amateur San Francisco photographer.  “Stop the killing!  Stop the hate!” was the mantra of protesters that night, available from Theresa Sparks on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-lTsu9SQXM .  Quotation from page 51 of TRANS/ACTIVE, leaping into light out of the darkness.

 

  1. Leveque, Sophia Cecelia. TRANS/ACTIVE: A Biography of Gwendolyn Ann Smith (Winston-Salem NC, Library Partners Press, ZSR Library, Wake Forest University August 1, 2017), p. 51.
  2. Ibid, p. 5.
  3. Ibid, p. 9.
  4. Ibid, p. 10.
  5. Ibid, pp. 19-21.
  6. Rita’s death often appears without mention of Chantelle’s as in “Transgender Day of Remembrance #TDOR – November 20” GLAAD https://www.glaad.org/tdor , accessed August 10, 2017.
  7. Op cit. p. 42.
  8. Ibid, p. 52.
  9. Unless otherwise noted, the writer, Lynnea Urania Stuart, relies upon her own recollections as a volunteer to the Transgender Civil Rights Implementation Task Force from June through November 2000 when she served as Employment Committee Secretary and attended the general meetings. Gwen was nowhere at the general meetings through November 2000 so could not have worked for the task force before December 2000.  Further conversation with Gwen on August 6, 2017 revealed that she recalled initially taking a seat next to the window near Larry Brinkin.  Brinkin, being an advisor to the task force, and not himself transgender, typically sat at the outer ring behind and to the right of Co-Chair Sarah Marshall.  Consequently, Gwen would have also sat in the outer ring. The writer has followed developments related to task force activities after moving from the Bay Area.  She writes about the task force and its relationship with AB 196 in detail in “California’s Trans Rights Collective” Transpire (June 10, 2016 ) https://lynneauraniastuart.wordpress.com/2016/06/10/californias-trans-rights-collective/ .
  10. Letter from the Clerk of the Rules Committee, San Francisco Board of Supervisors to Gwendolyn Ann Smith, dated August 9, 2001 (supplied by Gwendolyn Ann Smith August 6, 2017).
  11. Ryan, Janis “Transgender History Made in San Francisco” The Channel 20, Issue 6, June 1001,Transgender San Francisco, p. 15.
  12. Human Rights Commission. “San Francisco City and County Transgender Health Benefit” (memo revisiting the issue of transition benefits, 2006). Copy available online from  Transgender At Work Project. http://www.tgender.net/taw/SanFranciscoTGBenefitUpdateMar3106.pdf .
  13. Leveque, p. 77.
  14. List of transgender victims from the writer’s own archive.
  15. Op cit, pp. 116, 117.
  16. Ibid, p. 63.
  17. Ibid, p. 59.
  18. Witnessed by the writer, Lynnea Urania Stuart in Orange County CA. The writer has also witnessed how some younger members of a planning committee groaned at the perceived “drudgery” of reading the names of victims, an exercise that has embodied the very heart of the Day of Remembrance.