Transgender Day of Remembrance Speech

Not my finest piece of writing, but sometimes you get what you get at 4am.

I delivered this speech at the Bangor Transgender Day of Remembrance held on November 21st, 2010 at the Hammond Street Congregational Church in Bangor, Maine.

———-

In the end it is all about love.

We can talk about moving beyond tolerance to acceptance, beyond acceptance to embrace.  We can talk of how to be a good ally, how to learn, how to look at your own privilege.  We can talk about how to educate and how to respond to hatred or violence.  We can talk about a thousand things relating to the transgender day of remembrance, and why it is necessary.

But in the end it is all about love.

Loving our neighbors as ourselves.  Doing unto others as we would have others do unto us.  Following the rules of kindergarten classrooms everywhere.

My name is Andy Coate and I am 23 years old.  I have been doing activism for 11 years, trans activism for 5 of those.  I have lobbied at local, state, and nationwide levels speaking of the importance of legislation to protect me and my trans siblings.  I use fancy words when I lobby, explaining to important people why a proposed piece of legislation is really important; it’s about the youth!  It’s about the disproportionate number of trans people who are unemployed!  It’s about partner benefits, it’s about safety, it’s about children of trans parents, it’s about a million different things.

But it all comes down to love.

We have been hearing a lot about how it gets better.  You may have seen the few thousand Youtube videos expressing that sentiment.  I have watched videos from broadway stars, ministers, parents, children, teachers, the secretary of state, the vice president, and the president himself.  They would all like me, and you, to know that it’s going to get better.  These videos take the word “cheesy” to levels that have not even been explored, and there has been some criticism that they are superficial, that they aren’t really doing anything, that they aren’t useful, or that they are flat out lies because it doesn’t get better.  And to an extent I had some of those feelings.  It certainly doesn’t all get better on its own.  We need to work to MAKE it better.

We, society, need to work.  We need to put in the effort to make it better.  We need to stand up and say, “enough!” we need to say “that is NOT OK.”  We need to write letters and go to meetings and give testimony.  And more important than that we need to welcome our trans family and friends into the full life of community, not because they are trans but because they are family and friends.  We need to look past their identity and see them for the full, complete, awesome person that they are, that every human is.

Hateful rhetoric doesn’t help.  Hateful rhetoric widens the schism between side A and side B.  When we see something online or hear something on the news that is hateful or misinformed it’s our first instinct to lash out and say bad things about the person who spoke.  That doesn’t help.  If you can teach, then teach.  If you can donate money to an organization like GLAD or Trans Youth Family Allies then do that.  If you can post a counter-argument somewhere then do that.  And if you can have conversations with people about why what you saw upset you?  That’s the best thing of all to do.  Show you want for society to change with kindness and love.

And now I am going to ask you all to do something that you will internally groan at.  I am going to ask you to stand up, find somebody you didn’t come with, and thank them.

Stand up.

Find somebody who you did NOT come with.

Thank them.

Thank them for being here, for standing for a cause that you stand for, for loving their fellow humans enough to show their support.  Thank them for what YOU want to thank them for.  Shake hands if you like, hug if you want, but say thank you like you mean it.  Because you do.  I know you do.

And now I want to say thank you.  Thank you for coming out today and being here and showing your support and your love.

Thank you for loving me, and welcoming me to your community.  Thank you for being present and thank you for knowing what is right and what is just.

There is a campaign called the Standing on the Side of Love campaign.  Their goal is equality and justice by way of love.  And they have a song by a wonderful woman named Amy Carol Webb.  The chorus goes, “I will stand with you, will you stand with me, and we will be the change that we hope to see.  In the name of love, in the name of peace, will you stand, will you stand with me.”

So let’s stand together in this fight.  Let’s stand together in grief as we remember those who we lost to senseless violence and hatred.  And let’s stand together in determination for a better future.  Let’s stand together in peace for an end to all violence.  And let’s stand together in love for all humankind.

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3 Responses to “Transgender Day of Remembrance Speech”

  1. I’m sorry if this is an odd question- but how does someone become a trans activist? I know that general correcting ignorance and such counts, but I mean the kind of activist who speaks at events and is actually considered one. I’d like to- if not now, then at some point- but I don’t know what you actually need to do to become one.

    • You start with conviction.

      You start by speaking up.

      You start by learning to hold your tongue sometimes and speak up at other times.

      There is no degree, no registration, no card-carrying to be had. You simply know when to speak up, and you do speak up, and you disregard the fact that some people won’t be OK with the fact that you are speaking up. You get involved with organizations, or let people know that you are out there. And eventually you get noticed. And you’ll be asked to say a few words here or there. And then asked to do bigger things, and then bigger things.

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