About 4 years ago, I moved from Cleveland, Ohio to Seattle, Washington. In the cross country drive, I stopped in Lincoln Nebraska to pay my respects to Brandon Teena. For those of you who don’t know, Brandon Teena, was an FTM who was brutally raped and murdered on December 31st, 1993 because he was transgendered. This horrific act constitutes one of the most infamous hate crimes of the 1990’s. Yet, when I approached Brandon Teena’s grave, it seemed like all had been forgotten. Ignoring the facts of who he was, it was decided that his tombstone say his birth name: Teena Ranea Brandon. As I stared at the tombstone, there was a group of men from the military practicing the traditional call to arms burial a few hundred feet behind me. Because this was a practice and not an actual funeral, the sargent screamed obscenities at the men telling them how to properly hold their weapons. Words like Faggot and Dick Fucker were towering from behind me. This moment, was one of utter sadness and brutal irony.
We live in a world where the media creates our truth. Because of this, our awareness of actual events is skewed by a particular spin that sells more commercial airtime than honest reality. This unfortunate fact is what has kept acts of violence against transgendered Americans out of the public eye. Had it not been for an Academy Award Winning Boys Don’t Cry, how many people today would even know the story of Brandon Teena? And how many people know the story of the countless others who came before AND after Brandon’s brutal murder? We ask that each and everyone of you, take a moment today to honor the memory of Brandon Teena and those in our community who have been victimized by hate. We ask that even those of you who don’t agree with us, take a moment of silence today, because we do hope that we can all agree on one important thing: violence is not the answer.
As we all stand in the eye of this amazing storm of change, we ask that everyone respect those whom we have lost to violence and not perpetuate more violence. Let us stand together and fight for our rights. Let us bridge the gap of misunderstanding and indifference. Let us educate this nation and world to our struggles. We fight this fight for those we have lost. We fight this fight for generations before us that fought for their children and children’s children. We fight this fight because we can and will win. And we fight this fight because we cannot and will not forget!