Transgender victims remembered at vigil in Rainbow Center

Event coordinator Flavio Espinoza gives a PowerPoint presentation in the Rainbow Center in the UConn Student Union on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015, during an event to commemorate members of the transgender community who have been murdered for their identities in the past year. They honored the lives of those who passed away as well as celebrated the achievements of transgender people. (Olivia Stenger/Daily Campus)

The Rainbow Center hosted a vigil of remembrance Wednesday in commemoration of those who have been murdered because of their transgender identity. 

The vigil began with a listing of teenage to middle-aged victims who were shot, beaten, stoned, stabbed and strangled to death.

“Those who have been murdered or live in fear of being murdered haven’t been heard,” said Flavio Espinoza, third semester economics and Latin studies major, while leading the vigil. Their stories, Espinoza said, are a way of sharing the history of those who should be remembered. 

First-year urban and community studies major and transgender queer man, Zane Carey,  read a well-received poem about the fear of being transgender in an unaccepting and unaccommodating world. The poem repeated the verse, “Tell me I’m not doomed.” 

It continued, “Tell me that the statistics aren’t true. That one in two trans-people don’t attempt suicide. Tell me I’m not a statistic even though I have.”

When considering his future, Carey said there aren’t many good options for transgender people. There is always a fear of finding discriminatory employment or getting fired after coming out as transgender. Gender-free bathrooms are not always available for transgender people, and they are often denied housing throughout the country because of their identity. 

“Now you can get married, but you can still get fired,” Carey said, referring to the Supreme Courts’ decision in January to federally legalize same-sex marriage. “These are the things I have to think about when I look at the outside world.” 

UConn itself, Carey said, could do better. Not every building on campus has gender-free bathrooms. Although Carey lives in a room with a bathroom, he is worried about finding accepting living arrangements in following semesters. 

“Where else am I going to room where I feel comfortable and safe?” he said. Although UConn offers gender-free housing on a single floor in East Hall, Carey said he wants the opportunity to live where he wants without having to resort to designated communities.

When Carey came out as a transgender man, he said his parents were unaccepting and still are to this day. Instead of receiving support, he said, his local high school did not accept him either. However, upon coming to UConn, he was able to find a safe place in the Rainbow Center. 

“I’m still transitioning,” said Carey. “Every step of my life, I redefine what I want. I feel like being transgender has rid me of the idea that I have to be one way.”

Other students joined Carey in advocating for increased awareness and better treatment of transgender people. While not all the students were transgender themselves, they shared the experiences of transgender family members and friends.  

Thomas Sebastian, a seventh-semester history major, shared that when his cousin came out as transgender, his cousin’s mother did not accept her transition at all and concluded her child might as well be dead. 

“There are a lot of things that restrict the way we think and the opportunities others get,” Sebastian said. “It’s more important to let people exist in comfort.” 

For cisgender people - those who are not transgender - helping transgender people exist in comfort begins with creating a space where outsider experiences can be shared, Espinoza said. 

“It boils down to basic human rights,” said Espinoza. “It’s about things that allow people to exist and survive. Many people don’t have access to these things.”

Carey’s poem reiterated the need for basic human rights for transgender people through the perspective of a transgender man. 

“That is something I carry around with me everywhere I go: the feeling that I’m doomed,” Carey said after he read his poem. 

When talking to transgender friends who feel this sense of doom and knowing that nearly half of transgender people attempt suicide, Carey said he tells them, “You need to stick around so we can all stick around.”


Diler Haji is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at diler.haji@uconn.edu.