by Nancy Nangeroni
In late 1995 Chanelle Pickett, a transsexual woman of color, was murdered in Watertown, MA. Days later, on Sunday, December 10, an audience of 250 people gathered at Boston’s Arlington Street Church to speak out against the victimization of Chanelle. She had been strangled to death in the apartment of a man whose homophobic, transphobic defense stirred the anger of activists and sympathizers. Following the church meeting, most attendees joined in a candlelight procession to the Massachusetts State House a half mile away, despite the cutting wind which made the 20-degree cold feel like 20 below. There, I addressed the gathering.
Look up there. There’s nobody home. I find that completely appropriate. Isn’t that the way it’s always been for the transgender? When we need protection, when crimes are committed against us, when we ask for help, there’s nobody home.
There’s been no home for us in this country since European culture exterminated the native culture that honored transgenderism, and replaced it with one that tries to force nature to conform to uptight rules of gender and sexuality.
Well, the time has come for us to reclaim our home. Let us retake our place as persons for whom self-respect and dignity are not questioned, but assumed. Let us claim a place in this society of legitimacy and honor. Let us work to see that the next generation might have greater hope of escaping the suffering with which we are all too familiar.
How can we do this?
For a start, we can introduce ourselves to our neighbors all around, and to our lawmakers, the people who work here. We can show them how it benefits all, to end the devaluing of people whose gender presentation, expression or identity does not fit a stereotype. We can build a consensus that the law should provide protection, in employment, in school, and elsewhere, against discrimination on the basis of non-adherence to stereotypes of gender. We can play a role that benefits not just our friends, but society at large, and we can help lead the way to a more harmonious tomorrow.
To do this, we need to work together. If we refuse to be separated by identity, if we bind ourselves together by a common need to honor diversity in all things, then everyone can join with us, and our numbers will grow and grow. If 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, we will win respect and admiration. If we undertake no action which does not benefit all it touches, we will make nothing but friends. And if we never give up, we cannot fail.
So let Chanelle’s death not be without meaning. Let us honor her, by using her loss to inspire and motivate us to do what needs to be done.
Chanelle, in dying you have given us a gift of strength that we did not have before. May we find ways to use your precious gift to the very best benefit of all.
Thank you, and Remember Chanelle !