And they gathered in numbers. About 250. December 4, 1998. They lit candles. They breathed the purposeless air. They came with tears and broken hearts. With fears and pain and anger. For to say goodbye. For to ask why. For to simply be there, as a means to say, “no more”.
Her name was Rita Hester. She was found murdered in her Allston, Massachusetts apartment just a few days before. They came for her. They came for all of us. She lived for all of us. She died for all of us. She died for me. This is for you.
I wonder did you know that you were setting me free when you walked through your fear. When you chose to be you in the face of danger. I hope so.
I daily try to remember those who have opened the door for me. Those who lost their lives. Those who were beaten and raped. In all honesty, it is difficult for me to forget. As the 2011 Transgender Day of Remembrance is on the horizon, this becomes ever-so-much-more true.
I didn’t know who you were in 1998, when I was still trying to live as a man, too afraid to be me in the light of day. I didn’t know who you were in 2006, when I was taking those first frightened steps through the door you opened. I didn’t know who you were the first time I stood up and publicly claimed my right to be me.
I began to understand, when I started trying to open some doors for people yet to come. When I walked willingly into a world where I knew that vigilance was paramount to safety, as was openness to danger.
When I was finally me enough and well enough to see, I looked back at the road upon which I was travelling. I saw your footsteps, right there with mine. As I looked forward, I saw your footsteps without mine. I had come to know you. I have come to love you.
Because of you, I am able to be me. Because of you, the air I breathe is no longer purposeless. It is called a day of remembrance. It is far more than a day. It is a lifetime.
People sometimes tell me they think I am courageous. I think I am just too tired to try to live in hell anymore. Absolutely nothing can happen in this life, absolutely nothing, that carries half the pain of not being me for even one more moment. Because of you, I don’t have to.
I just wanted to let you know that you saved my life, as you lost yours. I wanted you to feel the gift you have given to so many. I will remember you. I will never forget you. Or all the others who have opened the door.
And they will gather in numbers. More than can be counted. November 20, 2011. They will light candles. They will breathe the still purposeless air. They will come with tears and broken hearts. With fears and pain and anger. For to say goodbye. For to ask why. For to simply be there, as a means to say, “no more”.
Stephanie Mott is executive director of the Kansas Statewide Transgender Education Project and a member of the Board of Directors at Metropolitan Community Church of Topeka She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com