Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Solemn Duty

Transgender Day of Remembrance

I am honored to be involved in the planning of my local Transgender Day of Remembrance gathering. The memorial, planned for the traditional date of November 20th, is to remember those transgender souls who were murdered within the past year. Some 400 names have been read since the inception of TDOR in 1999, this year the list is at 14 names. Especially troubling this year is the number of young people killed simply for being who they are.

I am pleased that my church has agreed to host this year's ceremony, the church also serves as host to a transgender support group's monthly meeting. We plan to include Kansas City Councilmember Beth Gottstein, who earlier this year fostered transgender inclusion into the city's anti-discrimination laws. The bill passed unanimously and there hasn't been a whiff of the stink that has occurred in Colorado, Montgomery County, Gainesville or Hamtramck.

We will also be honored to have the involvement of the youth of our community. Last winter members of local Gay/Straight Alliances through GLSEN organized a memorial specifically for Larry King, the 15 year old shot in a classroom of his middle school by a 14 year old classmate. The violence and hatred has now defiled our educational institutions.

One of our own died in 2006. Kaseem Juanda was found dead at a rest stop along I-29 just north of the Iowa/Missouri border. After a lengthy - actually too lengthy in my opinion - investigation and lab assessment (does it really take nearly a year for ballistics results?) - her death was ruled a suicide. I'm in no position to quibble with their determination, but there were enough unanswered questions that its probably fair to suggest we may never know the circumstances of her death. She will be remembered - a candle will remain lit for her. Kaseem worked for years in the Denver area, active in her union, sometimes organizing the annual picnic. Following her retirement, she came to Kansas City to find and be herself.

The hatred that is allowed to exist in our culture, in fact nurtured by many of our churches, has got to end. It doesn't matter whether you consider my life to be a "sin" or not. The anger, the rancor is heard by more than just those in your pews - those that, I presume you just know would never harm someone else. But we continue to be killed. Jesus killed no one. Follow that lead.

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