AUGUSTA — As he read the names of some of the transgender individuals murdered worldwide this year, Matthew Francis had a chilling thought.

“It could be me,” he said Friday during a Transgender Day of Remembrance ceremony at the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine in Augusta.

Though most of the reported cases happened in Central and South America, Francis said he feels no place is safe.

“I came out in 2013 and thought I would be safe in Falmouth, but I have been assaulted, spit on and cornered in a bathroom and have faced discrimination in housing and in the workplace,” Francis said.

One by one, the names of transgender men, women and teenagers were read aloud by representatives of the transgender community. Their ages and causes of death, including gunshots, stabbings, decapitations and stonings, were shared as a candle burned in their memory.

In the U.S., there have been 21 reported murders so far this year, but Quinn Gormley, a member of the board of directors of the Maine Transgender Network, said those numbers are lower than the actual number of cases. By contrast, Brazil has had more than 50 reported murders. Gormley said that is partly due to the way those cases are classified.

Davida Ammerman, a member of the Maine Transgender Lobby, showed emotion as she read the names of transgender people murdered in Brazil, which had the majority of reported cases.

“It hits home because even though I don’t know these people personally, I have known people who have disappeared over the years,” Ammerman said. “The murder of transgender women, and mostly transgender women of color, is at the intersection of a lot of hate in this world. It is the intersection of racism, misogyny, the idea of masculine domination and homophobia. This is just the very ugly tip of it.”

Gormley said that while having this day of remembrance is important, the transgender community needs more support “during the other 364 days of the year.”

“It is frustrating to see your allies show up in force and recognize you after you’ve died,” Gormley said. “We are never going to be a large enough force to make changes on our own.”

Gormley and Ammerman both work with the Maine People’s Alliance, a Portland-based group that advocates for equality by involving and educating citizens. Ammerman said there are similarities in the type of hatred felt among different groups, so the coming presidential election carries extra importance.

“The hate we feel is the same that people feel from the other side of the aisle about immigration and the dehumanizing of people living in poverty,” he said. “(They) are the same people that tend to dehumanize us.”

Activist and transgender woman Gwendolyn Ann Smith founded Transgender Day of Remembrance in 1999 as a web-based project to memorialize the murder of transgender woman Rita Hester in Allston, Massachusetts, a year earlier. It is now observed in more than 200 cities around the globe. On Friday, in addition to the Augusta remembrance, there were recognition ceremonies in Portland, Bangor, Farmington, Lewiston, Damariscotta and Machias.

While Caitlyn Jenner, probably the highest-profile member of the transgender community, brought increased media attention, Gormley said there is still a lot of work to be done.

“(The media attention) is limited to certain parts of the trans community that gets represented,” she said. “But that doesn’t really translate down to the average day-to-day life of trans folk. The only way to improve our lives is to have the support of a strong network of allies.”

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ


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