Achim Jeramiah HowardOn November 20, HRC will honor Transgender Day of Remembrance, an opportunity for communities to come together and remember transgender people, gender-variant individuals, and those perceived to be transgender who have been murdered because of hate. In the lead-up, HRC is proud to present a blog series featuring a few of the many powerful voices of the trans community.

Post submitted by Achim Jeramiah Howard, trans advocate, mentor, and HIV advocate based in Washington, D.C.

Many thanks to Ruby Lopez, HRC Field Intern, for interviewing this contributor.

The first time I saw a transgender man, I immediately identified with him. It was at that moment in 2004 that my identity finally made sense to me.

I remembered the times I would take my brother to hang out with my guy friends, always feeling like I was one of the guys. I remember my father catching me kissing my best friend when I was a child. I remember never being able to be myself around other women. I remember the first time someone called me gay and feeling confused. I finally just made sense; I am a trans man.

I didn’t begin to officially transition using hormones until 2006. Many people seem to have the idea that trans men have an easier time transitioning than our female counterparts, but that has not been my experience at all. I felt like I had to take it upon myself to educate those around me and teach them how to treat and address me because most of them just could not grasp the simple concept that I simply wanted to be treated like the man that I am.

In 2011, my life took a dark turn when I was sexually assaulted and contracted HIV from my assailant. I did not know how to cope and so, like many other of my trans brothers and sisters, I turned to alcohol.  I did not want to think about my unfortunate reality and instead threw myself into my work in order to distract myself. Luckily my spirituality, mentor, and two daughters whom I love so much helped me hang in there when things got dark. In those times, I simply turned to God. My spirituality gave me the resilience of character to survive. I felt God’s presence, especially when fate brought my mentor and dear friend Perry Carson into my life. He was the person that I could constantly look to for advice and a friendly ear. He helped me work out all the issues that came with my transition, my sexual assault, and living with HIV. And of course, there are my two daughters whom I love so much. There were so many times when I just wanted to throw in the towel and give up, but the thought of my daughters growing up without their father was too much for me to bear. I knew I had to be there to see them graduate, see them walk them down the aisle at their weddings. I know that God put them in my life not just so that I can help guide them through life and protect them, but also so that they can protect me with their love and serve as my anchors when all I wanted to do at times was let go and give up.

Regardless of those struggles, I consider myself fortunate because I am still here.

Transgender Day of Remembrance is a time for me to reflect on all those sisters and brothers who have fallen victim to unjust hatred and violence and as a result are no longer with us; they are truly martyrs of our struggle.

Often times when I think of those that have passed on I become plagued with guilt; Why did I survive? Why did they not? The unfairness of it all can be overwhelming at times. I could have easily been just another framed portrait being mourned over a vigil on November 20.

Transgender Day of Remembrance reminds me of our need to unify not just as a transgender community, or even an LGBT community, but also as a community of human beings all trying to navigate a hostile world.

Filed under: Transgender

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