ACTIVISTS RESPOND TO TRANSEXUAL MURDERS
In the wake of the Nov. 20 murder of Chanelle Pickett, and the murder of Deborah Forte in Haverhill last May, Boston's Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender communities have joined together in a series of actions designed to highten public awareness of violence against transgendered persons.
On Sunday evening, December 10, approximately 250 people from all over the Boston area and all walks of life gathered at the Arlington Street church to pay tribute to murdered transexual Chanelle Pickett, and to voice their outrage and desire to do something. The memorial vigil was organized by Sue Hyde of NGLTF, Robb Johnson of the Fenway Victim Recovery Program, and Nancy Nangeroni of The Transexual Menace. The audience was a balanced mix of queer and straight people of all types and colors, serious in tone, restrained but not lacking in energy. Invited speaker Riki Anne Wilchins, TS Menace co-founder, reminded the audience that another TS, Deborah Forte, had been murdered in Haverhill just a few months before, and called for greater unity across identity in the struggle for freedom of expression.
A particularly memorable comment during the "speak out" portion came from former city councilor David Scondras who said "You men out there must really hate women, to be so afraid of turning into women yourselves." Chanelle's twin sister Gabrielle (also TS), in a show of poise and strength, spoke of her sister's energy, spirit and goals, and called for people to work together in the aftermath of the tragedy. WMBR radio's GenderTalk producer Hal Fuller spoke of the need for people, especially transgenders, to be visible.
Following the memorial service, a candlelight vigil processed through the Public Garden and across the Common. The procession ended at the State House, where Nancy Nangeroni addressed the crowd, calling for the education of elected representatives to the hurt visited upon those who transgress gender 'norms'. She spoke of building "concensus that the law should provide protection, in employment, in school, and elsewhere, against discrimination on the basis of non-adherence to stereotypes of gender." She urged that "we bind ourselves together by a common need to honor diversity in all things", and that "we speak not of fighting and war and making losers of others, but instead education, making friends, and compassion for everyone, including those that we might otherwise see as enemies." She suggested that activists should "undertake no action which does not benefit all it touches."
The vigil concluded with the hanging of a memorial wreath for Chanelle on the State House front gate.
In a followup action on December 18, activists calling themselves the "Remember Chanelle" committee announced the formation of 6 task forces to conduct an ongoing response to violence against transgender persons. A Media task force will seek ways to monitor media coverage of transgender issues and provide information and education to reporters. A Legislative task force aims to collaborate with lobbying groups and meet legislators in order include a transgender voice in discussions of future legislation. A Community task force will reach out to people in the local GLBT community, meeting with other groups and fostering increased cooperation and inclusion. A Legal task force will monitor trial proceedings, help organize demonstrations and provide support for witnesses. A Stories task force will set up a mechanism to gather stories from transgender folk, about both negative incidents of violence and harassment, and positive stories of successes won, as an educational tool. A Victim Recovery task force will work to provide aid to victims, possibly including self-defense education.
Organizer Nancy Nangeroni said "This is an extremely ambitious undertaking, and every task force may not be successful. But if we accomplish anything, that will be more than has been done before."