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A BRIEF CONTENT WARNING: This speech discusses violence, homelessness, suicide, transmisogyny, and cissexism if you are unable to hear about these things, I will completely understand if you excuse yourself and return when I am done speaking.

I would like to open by reading the poem Transmisogyny by Alok Vaid-Menon

Alok is an Indian American performance artist, poet, and activist who identifies as gender non-conforming and transfeminine and uses they/them pronouns, I am sharing this poem with their express permission

  1. Promise me that I will matter if I don’t shave.
  2. Promise me that I will matter if I don’t wear a dress.
  3. Promise me that I will matter if I don’t wear makeup.
  4. Promise me that I will matter if I am not fabulous.
  5. Promise me that I will matter if I am ugly.
  6. Promise me that I don’t have to have been “born this way” to
  7. Promise me that I don’t have to always have known to matter.
  8. Promise me that you will not assume what it was like for me to
  9. grow up.
  10. Promise me that I don’t have to modify my body to matter.
  11. Promise me that you won’t call me a man no matter what I
  12. look like.
  13. Promise me that you will not repost all of the articles about
  14. how we shouldn’t assume gender (and then still do it).
  15. Promise me that I don’t have to perform white femininity to
  16. Promise me that I don’t have to perform cis femininity to
  17. Promise me that I don’t have to perform upper class femininity to matter.
  18. Promise me that you see the femme in my hairy body.
  19. Promise that you see the femme in my brown body.
  20. Promise that you see the femme in my messy, uncouth, dirty,
  21. scarred body.
  22. Promise that you understand that my gender is not just a hobby or a politic.
  23. Promise me that you understand that I wasn’t just assigned
  24. male at birth, I’m assigned male every day walking on the
  25. Promise me that you understand that as a form of street harassment.
  26. Promise me that you understand that as a form of gender
  27. Promise that you understand that I am hurt.
  28. Promise me that you understand that I am scared.
  29. Promise that you’re okay with my gender coming from violence.
  30. Promise me that you understand that sometimes I prioritize
  31. my safety over your binary.
  32. Promise me that you will allow me to narrate the story of my
  33. Promise me that you won’t love me like a man, kiss me like a
  34. man, fuck me like a man.
  35. Promise me you won’t forget that when you’re horny.
  36. Promise me you won’t forget that when you bring me home.
  37. Promise me that you’ll say something when they call me ‘he.’
  38. Promise me that they will not look back on my life and call
  39. this a phase.
  40. Promise me that you believe me when I tell you this not a
  41. Promise that I will matter when I am too tired to prove my
  42. gender to you.
  43. (Or don’t.
  44. I’m used to it).

<A Brief Moment of Silence>

Welcome everyone, as you already know it has been a really hard year for the trans community.

Today we read the names of some of the trans people who were murdered this year, the majority of who were trans women of color.

We say their names to affirm their identities and validate their lived experiences, AND we are careful not to forget that there are so many more of our trans siblings who died facing violence and injustice this past year that we do not know about, and we leave space for them in our hearts.

We didn’t read the names of those who died from treatable medical conditions, but were denied medical care or turned away from emergency rooms.

We didn’t read the names of those who died in the street, unable to rely on the social supports that many of us take for granted.

We didn’t read the names of those who took their own life

Something a trans adult is 22 times more likely to attempt.

If we did add the name of every trans person who died as a result of systematic injustice in America this year, we would still be reading the list now.

If we expanded it beyond our own boarders this hour would expand to a day, would expand to a whole week in order to read all of the names of our trans family that we have lost.

PROMISE ME, that you will not forget the UNKNOWN, the UNSEEN, and the UNSPOKEN.

 

You may be asking yourself “who is this nervous young woman?”

My name is Ada-Rhodes Short, I use she/her pronouns,

I am white, which is important to acknowledge when we are talking about issues of privilege systematic violence.

I am a doctoral student in mechanical engineering, and the facilitator of Corvallis Trans Support.

And I am a trans woman.

 

I am speaking to you today as the facilitator of Corvallis Trans Support and a member of the local trans community.

Corvallis Trans Support started as a public outreach project of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Corvallis, but in the last year has expanded to be so much more.

Originally, we were just a monthly support group that provided care, support, encouragement, and a little bit of community to trans folks living in Corvallis and the surrounding area,

But recently we have been trying to do more.

What I am most proud of is our monthly potluck.

Our potluck is a little different from the run of the mill potluck, while it is encouraged that people who are able should bring a dish to share, we always make sure there is room at the table for queer and trans folks in need of a hot meal.

We also use this time to collect food and clothing for our food pantry and community closet, both of which are free for trans and queer folks who may a need little extra food, a warm coat, or just some shirts and a pair of pants that make them feel better about themselves

 

You may be asking yourself why do we need to do this? Isn’t Oregon one of the more trans friendly states?

and

While it is true that Oregon has enacted many policies to protect trans folks, a lot of those policies are not enforceable when needed.

 

I wasn’t far into my transition when I transferred to OSU and moved out here from Colorado, but I was optimistic that things would be better here.

However, when I got here I was surprised to hear story after story of trans folks who struggled to afford a safe place to live, food to eat, and their medical bills.

Some people had trouble maintaining employment, and would be dismissed upon transitioning for vague reasons that were not clearly explained at the time.

Others were incapable of working due to mental health problems compounded by systematic stress and persecution.

And some were capable of working enough to afford housing and food, but were forced to be underemployed and live in poverty, because the only way that they could afford necessary medical treatment was to qualify for OHP.

And EVERYONE complained about the cost and availability of trans friendly housing.

 

Earlier this year I experienced this first hand.

After a rough summer, in which I had to go to the police about two men who had been harassing me, I found myself in a series of sudden conflicts with new roommates (something that had never happened before transitioning).

Unexpectedly, I was told that it had been decided that it would be best if I moved out,

AND BEFORE I had a chance to get my room packed they began to move in a new roommate on top of me.

So I found myself frantically and unexpectedly looking for housing on short notice.

This did not go very well.

One interaction that sticks out in my mind was with a landlord looking to rent an empty room in a house they owned.

Currently they were renting it to two undergrads, just a few years younger than myself (I had just turned 26 a month before), and everything seemed fine.

However, eventually the conversation took a cold turn.

This is an excerpt from the email they sent me

“The two people who have already committed to that apartment are both fairly young underclassmen.  They are both great kids–a guy and a girl, not a couple.

She is studying engineering, he biology, so they are both serious students.  But both of them are fairly young and timid, early 20’s.

I think it would be asking of them a great deal to have a roommate who is not only much more mature than them in terms of age, education, and emotional experiences, but also brings into the household gender issues which might make them quite uncomfortable.

As the property owner, I just think I would be making an unreasonable request of them.”

 

Further down the email told me about the landlord’s “gay brother” in a transparent attempt to comfort and absolve themselves.

 

The story does eventually have a happy ending,

after a few weeks of staying with friends and a few nights spent in my very supportive doctoral advisor’s guest room,

I moved into a place with my current roommate who has quickly become a close friend

 

This experience opened my eyes to the pervasiveness of cissexism and transmisogyny that on some level I had thought were not problems that I would personally face

I had a stable job

I had degrees, and awards, and references

And yet even with all of my educational, economic, and racial privilege I found myself homeless with little to no warning

During that time the only thing between me and sleeping on the street was the community of trans folks that I call friends, and often think of as my family.

I often wonder how this would have turned out if I were less privileged

I mean,

I didn’t have to deal with racial prejudice

I could afford an unexpected deposit and moving expenses

I could pay first month’s rent

I could turn to friends in my time of need, and store boxes in their garages, while I crashed on their couches or cuddled up in their beds

And Without every one of those things, I know it wouldn’t have turned out the same

 

So please, PLEASE

 

PROMISE ME, that you will not forget your privilege

PROMISE ME, that you will not ignore the struggle of people less privileged than yourself

PROMISE ME, that you will be there for your community when they need you

And I PROMISE YOU that I will do the same

 

To all of the people under the big trans umbrella here tonight, trans men and women, demi, femme, masc, non-binary, two spirit, and all my gender creative and gender non-conforming family

Take time tonight to reflect on your last year

Take time to be kind to yourself and heal your wounds

And remember that you still have a lot of life ahead of you, so do your best to make sure it is a good one

To everyone here today, including friends, partners, and allies

Remember that we are here tonight as a community to declare that trans suffering will not be invisible

PROMISE ME that you will remember.

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