Thursday, 17 January 2013

An open (hearted) letter to Suzanne Moore

Dear Suzanne,

Like Paris Lees, I am a long-term admirer of you and your writing. Your articles have always been a breath of fresh air and often helped me understand that it is the world that is mad not me. So everything Paris wrote in her open letter to you, goes for me too.

Getting to the point, I would like to ask you to reconsider you tweet about suing Pinknews. Not only is there nothing you could possibly sue them for but you might help silence one of the few places where the murders of trans people around the world get reported in this country.

I have to declare an interest here; I am one of the team that organises the London International Transgender Day of Remembrance. I have volunteered to do it, despite heavy work committmemnts pulling me in other directions, because it is the only way we can bring people's attention to the obscene numbers of trans people being murdered around the world, and especially in Latin America. The Transgender Day of Remembrance this year saw such an increase in numbers that, for the first time we had to stop lighting real candles and use battery-powered ones because the smoke pollution they were causing in the room.

We also worked hard to find Spanish and Portuguese speakers who are trans, so that we can get right the pronuncuation of the names of the dead people. Finding trans people who can speak Portuguese proved difficult even in cosmopolitan London, but we found two who soldiered bravely through the 124 names until they were both overcome with emotion. I know it doesn't seem a difficult thing to do; read out a list of names, but I was one of the readers two years ago when there were "only"180 names altogether (there were 265 worldwide this time), I managed to get through without crying but wept almost uncontrolably afterwards. Believe it or not it was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Every name could have been me or my friends.

The reason why we keep this tradition going, and it has been going since 1998, is to keep alive the memories of our sisters and brothers who have been killed for being just like us. The world needs to know about this, we are a small and relatively powerless minority, even more so in global terms, so all we can uselfully do is bring it to people's attention, which is what TDoR is about.

So I want to ask, please, please do not make this about you. It is not about you, and no-one could ever read into the Pink News article that the death of Cecilia Marahouse is going to have any connection, however tentative, with you. However the fact that she has been murdered needs to be got out there. As far as we are concerned, any publicity about this issue is good publicity, but now is the time to allow the real story to be heard, that is the only way we will ever be able to bring pressure on governments in Latin America to change their ways. Work is under way already but it is difficult.

I recently met Mariela Castro who has worked hard for trans rights in Cuba, she is trying to spread understanding of trans issues throughout Latin America; she has recently started to make some tentative inroads with the Guatemalan government for example. But these governments will not listen to her without international pressure, and with the World Cup next year and Olympics two years after that, there are fears of an even greater bloodbath than that which trans people currently experience in Brazil.

We feel angry about the murders and at the same time powerless to stop them, but we are using whatever tiny influence and leverage we can find to stop out brothers and sisters form dying. Last year a young transwoman was tortured to death by a mob of 400 people in La Paz, Bolivia; plenty of others were killed in religious-style stonings across Latin America.

So please make this about them, not you. This is not about getting one back on you, this is about charred bodies in remote ditches, it is about drive-by shootings, it is about bodies of teenagers with multiple stab wounds or bullet holes, it is about religious-style stonings.

A constructive response on your part would also restore your reputation conmsiderably, especially amongst trans people and our supporters.

Yours sincerely,

Natacha Kennedy

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