- November 20, 2013
The following post comes from Earline Budd, Co-founder of Transgender Health Empowerment, Inc. Today, communities around the world observe Transgender Day of Remembrance, a time to honor the lives of transgender and gender-variant individuals - or those perceived to be transgender - who have been murdered because of hate. To find an event in your area, visit hrc.org/tdor.
My journey as a Transgender Leader has been rough. They call me the “Oprah Winfrey of the Transgender community,” but I don’t feel it!
At the age of 9 years old, my family was struggling with what they called my “gender identity.” My mother said she would lay out my pants and shirts to get ready for school and would come back and find me in my sister’s clothes every time. I was taken to mental health services and went through a number of tests. It was revealed that I was mentally stable, but had a chromosome-based diagnosis that caused me to act out feminine tendencies. At the age of 14 years old, I was fully transgender. No turning back, but how do you explain that to your family? Right! Life got harder.
Trying to find myself as a teenager, I began to steal women’s clothing and do drugs. I lived on the city streets as a prostitute and drug user. It was a lonely time. I would describe it as a sense of hopelessness that no human should feel at any time. I ended up in prison where it was hard to be taken seriously for basic medical and mental health care. Who was going to help me?
I began to think about the loss around me. There were others like me and they received no help. They were laughed at and kicked to the side. When I was released from prison, I decided I needed to help in some way. I began attending the group, TADD, Transgenders Against Discrimination and Defamation. I launched a program with $20,000 awarded to do capacity building services for a non-profit organization that would assist the community with health issues and substance abuse. This later birthed the beginning of Transgender Health Empowerment (T.H.E.). I met the transgender community in jail and asked if they were getting their hormone therapies or if they were treated fairly while in jail. I made sure there was a support system in place because it was nonexistent before me. While helping many, I began to lose a lot of friends. They were murdered.
National Transgender Day of Remembrance is a somber time for me and our allies. I have handled the funerals of over 250 people in our community because of hate. I refer to them as family members because in the LGBT world, we create our families by building strong ties with each other. The most difficult time I had was when I had to bury my daughter from my gay family. “Nana Boo” Mack was 18 years old and enjoying life. She and a friend were on their way to a Transgender Empowerment meeting when they were stopped by a male. He was questioning them about their identity and because Nana was so honest about being proud of who she was, he became angry. An altercation occurred and she was stabbed multiple times. Her murder has never been solved. This broke my heart. It was a senseless death. I hope for the day that we never have to add a name to the roster. But, until that day comes, we must remember each year on November 20th. We know that many are gone, but they are not forgotten.
HRC is participating in a number of vigils tonight and later this week in observance of Transgender Day of Remembrance. Visit hrc.org/tdor for details on an event near you.