In a political climate that continues to target and restrict our LGBTQIA communities, the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) seems all the more important to honor today and every day. TDOR started in 1999 to honor the life of Rita Hester, a Black trans woman who was murdered in Boston, Massachussets. This day is a reflection on the culture that makes violence against trans people endemic, and to spotlight the resilience of trans communities.
North Carolina has a long history of anti-trans sentiment and violence, some of which we covered in our July blog post. This year, we honor Sasha Mason, a trans woman who was killed in Zebulon, North Carolina, in May. We also continue to advocate for Kanautica Zayre-Brown, a trans woman incarcerated at Anson Correctional Institution who is being denied gender-affirming care by prison officials. These instances remind us that anti-trans discrimination is persistent in our state and we must work tirelessly to push back.
We are also lucky in North Carolina to have a rich legacy of trans representation, cultural production, and resilience. This legacy includes Pauli Murray, a civil rights lawyer and activist who fought for racial and gender equality and many important contributions to political and social movements, who was born on this day in 1910.
According to the Pauli Murray Center, “Murray self-described as a ‘he/she personality’ in correspondence with family members. For years, Murray requested — and was denied — testosterone injections and hormone therapy, as well as exploratory surgery to investigate their reproductive organs.” When referring to Pauli, the Center interchangeably uses she/her/hers, he/him/his, and they/them/theirs pronouns.
Pauli lived in Durham, NC, from 1923 to 1926 and his childhood home has been preserved as a historical site by the Pauli Murray Center. He's also an indelible part of the ACLU's history. She was on the ACLU Board of Directors from 1965 to 1974, pushing the organization to focus more on gender inequality.
It's fitting that we should celebrate her legacy during Transgender Awareness Week and on Transgender Day of Remembrance. Pauli's relationship with gender is something historians have long analyzed, and while we can't know how she would identify if she were living today, they expressed sentiments fitting with a gender expansive identity. He also fought tirelessly for equal rights for all, including the LGBTQ community.
Pauli left behind a tremendous legacy of passion, perseverance and advocacy. In North Carolina, and beyond, it is our duty to carry this legacy in defense of trans communities.
Update 11/20 at 5 pm: We are devastated to hear of the shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where 5 people were killed last night (November 19). The news comes as a heartbreaking reminder of the reason we hold Transgender Day of Remembrance and the importance of standing in solidarity with the LGBTQ community. We must work to dismantle all systems of oppression that contribute to the violence and discrimination that LGBTQ people are forced to endure.