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Banter has a bodycount: remembering the fallen this Transgender Day of Remembrance

"Another world is possible"

By Holly Brockwell November 20, 2015

Today, November the 20th, is the Transgender Day of Remembrance. It’s a day when we’re supposed to take a little bit of time out of our busy lives to remember the people who died – often in horrible, shocking, violent circumstances – purely because they were transgender. I say “supposed to” because the trending topics in the UK right now include #FridayFeeling, #Adele25 and #HappyBirthdayMichael (someone from a band) – but not #TDOR.

This is probably because people don’t know about it, rather than because they don’t care – but considering the staggering number of trans murders and deaths, for trans people it feels like it trends every day. The wonderful AJ McKenna, who writes hard-hitting and haunting poems about trans life (and who wrote “Banter has a bodycount” in the title), puts it this way:

“Every time I cross the road I worry
that this will be the intersection
where a car speeds up instead of slowing down.”

When you imagine what it might be like to live with that kind of fear every day of your life, through absolutely no fault of your own, it doesn’t seem like such a big ask to take a few minutes to think of the trans people this world has lost.

Luckily, AJ has done the hard work for you. With her permission, we’re reproducing her incredible poem ‘A Memorial’ in full below, where she names just some of the trans lights extinguished by an unenlightened world. It’s inspired by Alice Oswald’s ‘Memorial,’ with its distinctive punctuation and style.

That it’s such a long poem is testament to just how enormous of a problem this is. As you scroll past real people who had real lives, try and imagine how much each name weighs on the trans community. How exhausting that must be. And how little it takes to show some respect and consideration.

A Memorial (after Alice Oswald)

By AJ McKenna

We begin the count again every November
and so this year’s list begins in Georgia
in Tbilisi
with an UNKNOWN WOMAN
who will not be the last we will not name this year

then GIZZY FOWLER gunned down in front of her home
just days before last year’s memorial
but too late for the lists

then DESHAWNDA SANCHEZ shot
while she pounded on a door asking for help

KEYMORI SHATOYA JOHNSON shot in Albany
Georgia
USA

and MARISOL ALMEIDA
found dead in Ecuador
on Christmas Eve 2014

And this year
PAPI  EDWARDS was the first to die
on a January morning before the day had time to warm
found shot dead in the parking lot
of the Fern Valley Hotel
and with Papi this year’s dance began
conflicting genders in the news reports
refusal to investigate as hate crime
all the same old songs

as when a bullet entered LAMIA BEARD’S body
and blood began to pool beneath her where she lay down
on the sidewalk
and her dead name bubbled up from some reporter’s throats

with talk of past convictions
as if they were trying to imply
this world was somehow just
that bodies like Lamia and Papi’s
had committed some sin other than
not being white
not being cis
not being right
not fitting in

and what sin was committed by
the UNKNOWN WOMAN shot to death
in Badhber Pakistan

for what crime was PIU DA SILVA
tortured to death in Brazil
as if anything justifies that

as if TY UNDERWOOD did anything more
than tell her cis boyfriend she no longer wished to see him
as if HANDE ÖNCÜ did anything more than move to Turkey
seeking refuge as so many cis women would seek it this year
as if YAZMIN VASH PAYNE did anything other
than argue with her boyfriend
now one is lost to the full stops left by bullets
one lost strangled naked her hands and legs bound
the other to the lines blades draw in flesh

as if LÉO in Brazil deserved the pictures of her body
on the websites reporting her shooting
as if PATA in Brazil had deserved to be strangled
as if DIDINHA deserved to be shot
Some had not turned the pages of their calendars
when JOYCE AKIRA was brought down by bullets
a teen

and TAJA GABRIELLE DEJESUS was found in a stairwell
an activist a woman of the church giver of food
to those who needed it
but a knife entered her multiple times
held they say in the hand of a man who hung himself
a block away
and they didn’t call it a hate crime

like PENNY PROUD just got shot by a robber
easy to explain it all away
when you look only at the bullet’s path
and not the path that led a body to transect it
easy too to get a name and pronouns wrong
this they did

those left behind so often have to fight
to give the dead their names
they fought for Penny

They fought over what to call BRI GOLEC
whose family called her ‘man’ after her death
it was her father’s hand which held the knife that stabbed her
two stories clashed in Akron on a February night
only one needed to kill

KRISTINA GOMEZ REINWALD had two names
for work and life
and died twice
once thought suicide
later ruled homicide
another woman murdered by her boyfriend
some said her ex
who took the life of the woman they sometimes called
Kristina Grant Infiniti
her name a kind of prayer

RAISSA stabbed to death in Campaina Grande
was granted only nineteen years

and CAPITÚ SANTOS
was 31 years old
when the final knife entered her body

and now for the first time I say
an UNKNOWN WOMAN was shot
somewhere in Brazil
I will add more to that number

SUMAYA DALMAR was sometimes known to use the surname Ysl
it was this name which appeared in the early reports of her death
a death unsolved
the same day a sixteen year old called LARA
was stoned to death
and two days later a woman called KEITY
stabbed ten times
both in Brazil

we will hear a lot more from Brazil

in the same single day
NATÁLIA FERRAZ
and YGOR FERNANDO OLIVEIRA SANTOS
were both lost to multiple bullets

like the sudden chaos of a storm

the bullet rain
explosion in the heavens
and terrible light

The police say KEYSHIA BLIGE’S death
was ‘definitely no hate crime’
the same police who got her name wrong
when reporting her death
so a murder in March
was only known about in August

when a wind blows from the Gulf of Mexico
north of where another UNKNOWN WOMAN
was found with bullets in her
north of where MICHAEL LUCAS DE ALMEIDA REGINALD
was beaten and stabbed to death
at the age of thirteen in Sao Paulo
north of where BIANCA ARAUJO was shot to death in Fortaleza
twenty-one years old
north of where ADRIANA was shot multiple times
in Mato Grosso do Sul
north of where LOTINHA was stabbed in Manaus
to London from the warmth of the Equator
to a city cold in Spring – so came VANESSA SANTILLAN
from the city of her childhood to the city where she died
beneath the fists of spousal jealousy
her bodybuilder husband cried
she didn’t take him seriously
after killing her he visited a brothel
such a morally serious man

A wrong turning on a road in Baltimore
and a woman dies at the guns of the NSA

Some say this doesn’t count as murder
call it tragic accident

I say state violence
is still violence
I say there’s nothing accidental
in cop bullets fired at black trans skin
I say MYA HALL
belongs in my list

VANESSA GANZAROLI
stabbed again and again in Petrolina
as some browsed their first quarter reports
have you been counting
did you count DEBORA
stoned to death in Mogi Mirim

in Pakistan that month count
TWO UNKNOWN WOMEN
murdered at a wedding
a third lived but was raped

VICTORIA CAMARGO
shot in Venâncio Aires

BRUNA MICHELE
twenty years old
beat to death in Belo Horizonte

BRUNA QUERCIA
fifteen years old

shot to death in Vila Velha
another BRUNA in Vitória, Espírito Santo,
defeated, giving up the ghost to yet another gun
and another UNKNOWN WOMAN strangled in Manaus
JOB RODRIGUES DA SILVA shot to death in Porto Velho

step as careful as the deer
between the grass and trees
walk where you will not leave a footprint
still the hounds will find the scent

stones found the abdomen
of DIOSVANY MUÑOZ ROBAINA
they killed her
two men killed her
they surrendered to police as a couple

how many were behind the death
of STEFANNY who was shot in Caucaia
of the UNKNOWN WOMAN shot in Curitiba

ALMAROOF BIJLI found dead and mutilated in Pakistan
who knows how many hands behind that
three women gunned down in that country

SAIMA SHAHZADI
SHAH ZAIB
BILLI
by a gang of men on bikes

LA MONIQUE DE ROMA shot to death in Sao Paulo

One man killed LONDON CHANEL
her boyfriend
a ‘domestic incident’ was how the police described it
as they would
we know a trans woman argued with a cis man
and we know which one is dead

We know so many trans women die in Brazil
and we know the names we know are a fraction
of their number
we know VANDRESSA VINNITT
is one of those names
we know she died by gunshot
know such little else about her
no more do we know about TICIANE ABRAMAVEL
dead the same day
not the only such day this dark year
nor the most deaths on a day

and more Brazilian deaths:
JEAN WALTRICK shot
BARBARA SODRE stabbed

like the sand where
with a stick
a child writes their name
and the sea comes
and washes away what was written

North of the border MERCEDES WILLIAMSON
was murdered at the age of seventeen
we know more about her than we know about
PRISCILLA DA SILVA
we know she was shot

we know FRANCELA MÉNDEZ RODRÍGUEZ
went to see her friend Consuela
and didn’t come back

what do we know of
CAROL MELO
ANDRÉIA AMADO
the UNKNOWN WOMAN found in a shallow Brazilian grave
KELLY SILVA
or KUANE DA SILVA
we know one was strangled
another was shot
all we know of one is her body was found
we know one was stabbed in neck and arm
defensive wounds
and one shot in the head

we know that LAURA VERMONT
was seen running from São Paolo police
two of them murdered her
think about that
and why we know so little of the others

Running
Running
Running
Eventually our strength is going to fail
We will run out of corners to turn
Confront a dead end
Until then
Run
and run

and think about JASMINE COLLINS
reported dead by her deadname for months
stabbed by a cis woman
the police said in an argument about some shoes

the same day SIDNEY ARAÚJO CLAUDINO
was shot in a drive-by
another day of two deaths
still not the worst of this year

and run
and run

We know less of BRUNA J. MENDES
only that she was shot multiple times
as was another UNKNOWN WOMAN
in Brazil the following day

and run
and run

DAYA RANI KINNAR ran for office
in Uttar Pradesh
the killers ran from her home
as a train thundered past

and days later yet another UNKNOWN WOMAN
was stabbed to death in Brazil

then a day of three deaths
INDIA NASCIMENTO
L.R.O. DORTA
VANESSA CALAÇA
the year barely half gone

And the next day ASHTON O’HARA found dead in a field in Detroit
Two days later ERIKA AGUILERA shot in the back in Dourados
a girl called only GABI beaten to death in Valparaíso de Goiá

Two days later another three deaths
INDIA CLARKE shot in the head in Tampa, Florida
NEPHI LUTHERS shot in the head in Georgetown, Guyana
another UNKNOWN WOMAN found in Alicante, Spain

can you see why there is talk of states
of emergency
of siege

In Fresno, California
KC HAGGARD leans in to the window of a car
a minute later the driver she speaks to
will slash her neck and drive away

the next day in Brazil another UNKNOWN WOMAN dead

days later SHADE SCHULER dead in Dallas

a body found in foliage in Brazil
the name we have been given is PATRICIA

with that the dark summer began
AMBER MONROE shot in Detroit
not for the first or second time
this one the last
KANDIS CAPRI shot in Phoenix
and they say nobody knows why
TAMARA DOMINGUEZ run over multiple times
by an SUV

(every time I cross the road I worry
that this will be the intersection
where a car speeds up instead of slowing down)

ELISHA WALKER’S body dug up from her shallow grave
V.H.A. DOS SANTOS shot multiple times in Brazil
another Brazilian woman, FLOWER, beaten to death
this was August

And in September WALESKA RAYALA
was stabbed 27 times
and MARCELA CHOCOBAR was found
her body burned beyond the recognition of the eye
only her DNA remained to tell the story

And in Brazil PAULINHA
all we have is her first name
the location Rio Grande do Norte
the cause of death gunshots
to the head and to the chest

C.N. ALVES DE MATOS JR
stabbed and dismembered
twenty-one years old

On the same day FERNANDA OLMOS
one of three in Argentina
whose murders would be noted
by her President
but not until the third

L.A. DE SOUZA found in landfill
With a knife stuck in her neck

Why was the one they called MELVIN
shot dead in Detroit
uncertainty surrounds
the gender
the orientation
they were read as a man in a dress
and shots rang out
to underline the binary in cordite

and KIESHA JENKINS was beaten by half a dozen men
shot in the back twice when she fell
police admit the possibility
her murder may be connected to her gender identity
is ‘something we are definitely looking into’

connect it also to the colour of her skin
admit the intersections
of rich and poor
of black and white
of North and South

connect it to the death of RAFAELA CAPUCCI
yet another in Brazil

and the third Argentinian death
DIANA SACAYAN

her country’s most well-known trans activist
if she could die
then who else might
it only takes one knife
one gun
one angry fist
one car
one flash of hating recognition in the eyes

a coin spins at the edge of a moment
becomes a hurricane of coins a kaleidoscope a superposition
it will always fall one of two ways

it fell wrong for ZELLA ZIONA
surrounded by four or five people
one of whom reached for a gun

and most recently at time of writing
for YOSHI TSUCHIDA
but I write his name down knowing
between today and tomorrow
there can always be more

like the snow in which
with a stick
a child writes their name
an adult
melancholy
writes
another world is possible
knowing the snow will keep falling
erasing all that has been written

writes another world is possible
knowing the snow will keep falling

knowing the snow will keep falling.

“There can always be more,” AJ says. And she’s right. Just yesterday, transgender woman Vicky Thompson was found dead at the male prison she’d been sent to. A petition for the Prisons Minister, Andrew Selous, to be fired has already amassed over 2500 signatures.

And so, as AJ puts it, the snow continues to fall. The least we could do this Transgender Day of Remembrance is stop and take stock of the fallen.


Main image: Vicky Thompson (R), via Change.org

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