By Jude Samson
We cried as each celebrity/legend was claimed in this year of Legend-Deaths right down to the stunning back-to-back deaths of Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. We jested about how insane the Hollywood death toll was this past year by putting up memes hoping Betty White and so many other beloved celebrities make it through the final hours as we ticked ever nearer to the close of the year. Despite knowing that we were then just 20 days away from signing in out Tweeter-in-Chief mock-u-President, into office most people seemed to feel 2017 was going to be a much better year. However, while the internet and people, in general, went along their merry way, taking a moment to post a sentiment about the passing of some famous person they’ve never known others were dying – were being killed – that went almost entirely unnoticed. Identities were stripped, rights were won and lost, and the fight wages on.
- To kick off 2016 New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a bill protecting trans people from being discriminated against based on gender identity. (New York Protects 31 Genders)
- March brought in the “HB2” or the “Bathroom Bill” that managed to successfully pass thanks to raging transphobe Governor Pat McCrory despite what seemed to be overwhelming opposition against the bill from residents and businesses in North Carolina. This sparked several other attempted bills but those were quickly defeated while this bathroom battle waged throughout the year and still continues into the New Year.
- Caitlyn Jenner ruffles a lot of feathers in the trans-community and the ratings of her show tank. She was so focused on becoming a spokesperson for the community despite not knowing even the simplest of terms and making contradictory statements such as her appearance on Ellen’s show. Jenner’s show was soon canceled in 2016.
- In March we saw Andreja Pejic make her first official appearance as a female model on the cover of Marie Claire Spain. (Previous modeling was done while she identified as male or androgynous).
- Seemingly every month a discriminatory bill was introduced in one state or another throughout the country primarily those focused on forcing trans persons to use the bathroom/locker room according to their gender assigned at birth and not their true authentic self Most of these bills were squashed but most states had some attempt presented in 2016.
- Alternatively, many cities and states mobilized to sign protection laws. While not as news-worthy and not as many presented as were anti-trans bills this was a significant move on the parts of the individual cities and states towards increasing trans protections in a very volatile political climate.
- New York City Mayor Bill De Blazio creates a new position and appoints Azadeh Khaili as the new executive director of the Commission on Gender Equality. The position will serve to oversee various policies within the city to help ensure protection for transgender, non-conforming, intersex residents are protected.
- Similarly, Los Angeles created the Transgender Advisory Council which will also work closely with the mayor and other city officials toward on-going protection and trans-awareness training to those who operate within the city such as the LAPD.
- While Lana Wachowski (the duo behind Matrix Trilogy and so much more) came out as a trans woman a few years prior the Lilly came out this year. While their older works still have “Wachowski Brothers” attached, going forward they are now billed simply as “The Wachowskis.”
- Raffi Freedman-Gurspan makes history in becoming the first transgender person hired by the White House when Obama reinstituted the LGBT Liaison position (created by Clinton administration and disbanded by Bush administration).
- During President Obama’s speech to the Nation, he became the first president to use the word Transgender.
- Pennsylvania mandates that insurances will have to cover medically necessary services regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.
- The head of the National Center for Transgender Equality, Mara Keisling, shows NC how they cannot enforce their HB2/anti-trans bathroom bill by using the women’s facilities inside McCrory’s own offices. McCrory had her arrested after the fact once Keisling announced what she did.
- Stonewall Inn officially becomes protected and listed as a National Monument. President Obama designates Stonewall, the first LGBT national monument.
- Avery Jackson, 9 years old, makes the cover of National Geographic
In the process of the year, we lost many trans women and a few trans men. The majority were minority trans women and the prevailing cause of death was murder. Unfortunately, due to ignorance in media reporting, many others may have gone unacknowledged as a result of misgendering and misnaming. (You can read about GLAAD’s attempt to prevent double victimization in media reporting.)
Those we lost in 2016 were:
- India Monroe, 29 years old, Newport News, VA on 12/21 – MISGENDERED/MURDERED
- Noony Norwood, 30 years old, Richmond, VA on 11/6 – MURDERED
- Sierra/Simon Bush, 18 years old, Idaho City, ID on 10/22 – MURDERED
- Brandi Bledsoe, 32 years old, Cleveland, OH on 10/8 – MURDERED
- Jazz Alford, 30 years old, Birmingham, AL on 9/23- MISGENDERED/MURDERED
- Crystal Edmonds, 32 years old, Baltimore, MD on 9/16 – MURDERED
- T. Saffore, of unknown age, Chicago, IL on 9/11 – MISGENDERED/MURDERED
- Alexis Arquette, 47 years old, California on 9/11 – NATURAL CAUSES
- Lexxi T. Sironen, 43 years old, Waterville, ME on 9/6 – UNDETERMINED (Possible accidental death/drowning due to intoxication)
- Rae’lynn Thomas, 28 years old, Columbus, OH on 8/10 – MURDERED
- Erykah Tijerina, 36 years old, El Paso, TX on 8/8 – MURDERED
- Skye Mockabee, 26 years old, Cleveland, OH on 7/30 – MURDERED
- Dee Whigham, 25 years old, Biloxi, MS on 7/23 – MURDERED
- Deeniquia Doods, 23 years old, Washington D.C. on 7/13 – MURDERED
- “Goddess” Diamond, 20 years old, New Orleans, LA on 6/5 (The term goddess was selected for her after her death as her chosen name was not known but the community wanted to honor her) – MURDERED
- Amos Beede, 38 years old, Burlington, VT on 5/25 – MURDERED
- Mercedes Successful, 32 years old, Haines City, FL on 5/15 – MURDERED
- Tyreece “Reecey” Walker, 32 years old, Wichita, KS on 5/1 – MURDERED
- Keyonna Blakeney, 22 years old, Rockville, MD on 4/16 – MURDERED
- Shante Isaac, 34 years old, Houston, TX on 4/10 – MURDERED
- Quartney Davia Dawsonn-Yochum, 32 years old, Los Angeles, CA on 3/23 – MURDERED
- Kedarie/Kanicee Johnson, 16 years old, Burlington, IA on 3/2 – MURDERED
- Demarkis Stansberry, 30 years old, Baton Rouge, LA on 2/27 – MURDERED
- Maya Young, 24 years old, Philadelphia, PA on 2/20 – MURDERED
- Veronica Banks Cano, unknown age, Philadelphia, PA on 2/19 – UNDETERMINED
- Nino Acox Jackson, 26 years old, Lake Ray Hubbard, TX 2/16 – MURDERED
- Kayden Clarke, 24 years old, Mesa, AZ on 2/4 – MURDERED (Police shoot Kayden in his home during wellness check)
- Jasmine Sierra, unknown age, Bakersfield, CA on 1/22 – MURDERED
- Monica Leora, unknown age, Austin, TX on 1/22 – MURDERED
While 2017 has already experienced loss we need to remember and mourn those who have fallen in this battle and we need to use that as strength to continue onward. There are a lot of ups and downs right now but we can make 2017 a stand-out year despite a large advisory looming over us.