Transgender hate crime victims mourned in Reno
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Fifty people recently gathered in Reno for a solemn ceremony to remember victims of transgender hate crimes across the globe. KUNR's Michelle Bliss reports the event offered healing and awareness for a group often misunderstood.
NOTE: Some of the language in this story is violent in nature as the subject matter involves hate crimes.
"We live in times more sensitive than ever to hatred-based violence, yet even now the deaths of those based on anti-transgender hatred or prejudice are largely ignored."
Reverend Neal Anderson with the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Northern Nevada is referring to the 238 known transgender murder victims from just this past year. For many of the deceased, their final moments were marked by severe brutality:
"Mylene: age 42; bludgeoned to death with a hammer in France; July 24, this year."
"Duane: age 16. Cause of death: beaten, stabbed, shot, and run over by a car. Location: Jamaica. Date of death: July 22, 2013."
The voices you hear are volunteers with the Transgender Allies Group in Reno and the very last reader is a 14-year-old boy named Cade.
Despite Cade's youth, his mother Nicole Ott insisted that her teenage son participate. The issue hits quite close to home as Cade's 8-year-old sister C.C. is transgender.
"It's a big reality for our family that this is something that could happen to our child. And I think it's important for him, as the oldest brother, and just as a person, to understand what's going on in the world because I think that if you don't understand and if you're not aware of what's happening, you are not going to be someone who tries to effect change."
Cade's sister C.C. was born male, but from age three exhibited signs that she identified as a girl.
She refused to wear boys' clothing and had a lot of behavioral problems that all went away when C.C.'s parents finally understood and accepted that their child was transgender--that her gender identity did not match her assigned sex.
C.C. is now much happier living as a girl, but concerns about her safety persist.
"It's really...it's terrifying. All you know is that your child is going to be singled out and has more of a propensity to have horrible things happen to them just for being themselves and expressing who they are."
Along with the danger of anti-transgender violence, the community also loses many to suicide.
A 2011 study by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force found that 41% of transgender people try to kill themselves, compared to less than 2% of the general population.
Dr. Tory Clark, a sexologist and instructor at the University of Nevada, Reno, says transgender people often feel alone because they're too afraid to come out or they've been abandoned by family and friends.
"When you shove someone into isolation like this, the despair, the depression, and the anxiety, all of that that follows--it's incredibly overwhelming. Just imagine yourself without being able to turn to anyone, being all by yourself."
Kimi Cole, a transgender woman from Minden who attended the ceremony, says the isolation is still debilitating for many, but there continues to be improvement as the word transgender becomes more commonplace.
"When I was growing up, I knew something was different. It never did feel quite right. However, the discussions were not prominently out there in the public. It's not like you had a few friends that you knew about that you could relate to; it was this thing that was so far removed from general society."
The Transgender Day of Remembrance is a national event that began 15 years ago with a candlelight vigil in San Francisco to honor murder victim Rita Hester.