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It’s an all-too-common scenario in TV shows and movies: Boy meets girl. Girl turns out to have been born a boy. Boy is horrified and thinks he’s been tricked.
For real-life transgender people, the setup isn’t funny. Many in the transgender community say it’s an excuse used to justify violence against them.
“It enforces the idea that it’s OK to have this violent reaction to transgender people,” said Rebecca Chapin, who leads the LGBT Center of Raleigh’s Transgender Initiative. “It’s what these people who murder transgender people use as a defense.”
Want to go?
Here’s the schedule of events for Tuesday’s International Transgender Day of Remembrance:
12:15 and 1:20 p.m.: “Die In” at the N.C. State University Brickyard. Participants in the flash mob event are asked to meet at University Plaza.
5:30 p.m.: Equality NC’s candlelight vigil outside the state Capitol Building at the corner of Morgan and Fayetteville streets. The Rev. Nancy Petty will offer a short sermon, and speakers will read the names of transgender people who died in acts of violence this year.
7 p.m.: Reception with music and refreshments at the LGBT Center of Raleigh, 411 Hillsborough St.
For more information, go to lgbtcenterofraleigh.com.
Chapin hopes to confront those issues Tuesday during the International Transgender Day of Remembrance. In downtown Raleigh, Equality NC will hold a candlelight vigil honoring more than 40 trans individuals who have been victims of violence.
“On this day, we take a minute to remember those we’ve lost due to trans-phobia, homophobia, violence and discrimination,” Chapin said.
The group also hopes to raise awareness through an unusual, flash mob-style event at N.C. State University. At 12:15 and 1:20 p.m., participants will assemble at the Brickyard and simultaneously “drop dead” on the ground for about five minutes. The spectacle will likely turn heads and aims to get people talking about violence against transgender people.
Later during the vigil, a speaker will read off the names of the 40 transgender victims of violence this past year in the United States. Chapin said the numbers have been going down since the event started in 1998; then, there were about 100 tragedies to mention. Most of the incidents aren’t local, but Chapin recalls a transgender woman getting attacked in Western North Carolina several years ago. A group of men who had been harassing her followed her down the road, and when her car broke down, she had to defend herself with a knife.
The incidents often don’t get much attention, because transgender people typically stay out of the spotlight. That’s slowly changing, Chapin said.
“You’re just starting to see people coming out as transgender as an identity,” she said. “The goal has been to disappear into the woodwork, primarily for safety reasons.”
As the LGBT Center of Raleigh has grown in recent years, it has embraced the transgender community with support groups and social events. Programs such as the Day of Remembrance aim to involve the outside community and dispel misconceptions.
“I ask people to incorporate the idea that gender isn’t black and white,” Chapin said. “Don’t gender somebody when you meet them, allow them to gender themselves.”
When more people understand that, Chapin hopes transgender people will stop being “the butt of every joke” and the number of victims listed each year will continue to drop.
“We’re just normal people trying to live our lives,” she said.