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Mourning Those We’ve Lost and Supporting Survivors on TDOR and Every Day

Ten years ago when I started this journey as Co-Director and Co-founder of the Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico (TGRCNM), I never would have thought that I would still be working to create community spaces for transgender, gender non-conforming, and non-binary (GNC and NB) people in Albuquerque today.

But what weighs on my heart as I write this is the recent death of a beautiful, young, talented, amazing, Native American trans woman who was a member of our community.

Most people will assume it was violence or an accident that took her life. And in my opinion, it was violence. But it was not at the hand of another person; it was at the hand of a world and society that does not value human life and does not value trans people’s lives, which leads to the creation of survival and coping skills that often involves substance use to get through each day. These skills are critical for survival but can result in higher rates of HIV, decreased health outcomes, and increase violence and instability in people’s lives.

With the Transgender Day of Remembrance approaching, we are faced with the deaths of so many trans, GNC, and NB family members who lost their lives due to horrifically violent events. But we seldom talk about the family members who are struggling each day to survive hardships like homelessness, addiction, HIV and other health conditions, loss of families of origin, unemployment and underemployment, lack of access to education, and the constant barrage of information and hatred that says trans folks should simply not exist.

These circumstances are the breeding ground for the development of survival skills in people that, at some point, stop serving them in the same ways and start to destroy them. We are working against this violence and hatred to remind folks that they are loved, they are cared about, and they are worthy of whatever they want to have in life. We want them to know that there are people who see them, value them, and are here to lend an ear, a helping hand, and an open heart.

We will continue to work toward a day where the services and spaces that TGRCNM offers are no longer needed – and for the day we no longer have to set aside, collectively, a special day once a year to mourn community members whom we lost too soon.

Zane Stephens is the co-founder and director of the Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico, a grantee of AIDS United's Transgender Leadership Initiative.

Posted By: Guest Blogger: Zane Stephens, Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico - Friday, November 16, 2018

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