This International Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) the world recognizes trans and gender diverse folks we have lost over the course of the year. TDoR allows our communities time and space to mourn, process, and heal. It also provides a unique place for these same communities to come together and…celebrate?
The DC Beings team sat down with #PrEPPledge model and transgender advocate, Porsha Burton, to discuss the importance of TDoR in her life, and how she survives — and thrives — in celebration of those lost to senseless violence.
What does the Transgender Day of Remembrance mean to you and DC’s trans/NB communities?
Porsha Burton: What TDoR means to me…what it gives me is a day to celebrate the lives of individuals that are no longer here. They may have passed on due to murder, may have passed on due to complications with their diagnosis — just, being able to celebrate those who aren’t here anymore in a way that we didn’t use to back in the day.
Back in the day, we always mourned and were always sad, but I think TDoR gives us a time to celebrate each other. And I think that’s so important for our community.
How do you honor the lives lost throughout the nation — or in our community — in your everyday life?
PB: I try my best to do my best at everything, you know. I try to educate others; I try to educate myself. I leave no stone upturned because I just feel that the more we know; the better life will be.
But how I celebrate other individuals that I may not personally know?
I’ll post them up on my Facebook for us to say their names. Sometimes — once a year around this time in particular — many my friends will get together for a candlelight vigil for those that have passed away — not only in D.C., but in Philadelphia as well. We just try to stay strong for one another, which is probably the most important thing.
What are some ways that you practice self-care in light of any type of trauma that you face?
PB: It’s really hard and difficult to practice self-care when you have so many other people to worry about — or when you have just have work to do. But what I always do is: I take a little bit of time for myself in the morning. I think about how I would like my day to go, and I remember that today is a new day. I tell myself, ‘You can start today over at any time of the day’.
I try not to let trauma consume me — I like to deal with trauma straight on. I feel like I have to go through it in order to get better. That’s my philosophy. Sometimes, you have to go through the challenge to know that you can get through it.
It’s going to be hard but take a little bit of time out for yourself each day. Remember that you are worthy. Know that it’s not your fault. But you owe it to yourself to push through and face the challenge when you’re ready — and sometimes when you don’t think you’re ready!
I try not to let trauma consume me — I like to deal with trauma straight on. I feel like I have to go through it in order to get better.
How can an ally — whether within or outside of the community — support a friend?
PB: A wonderful way to support a friend going through trauma would be to simply listen. Allow the individual to vent, and then answer the venting. Talk about what happened afterwards. Tell them that It’s okay to be upset, it’s okay to be hurt, but it’s not okay to stay there forever.
Work with them to develop solutions that can support them through future traumas. Ask, “what are some things that you can rely on to bring you out of this fog?” Not asking them to use your tools but helping them develop their own.
How do DC-based organizations work to support trans/nb youth in our community?
PB: There are plenty of organizations in DC that support individuals that are experiencing trauma and challenges, while also providing diagnoses and treatment options. I think the mix of emotional, educational, and medical support truly sets them apart. And support is what helps people through these challenging times.
Some that I want to highlight are SMYAL, HIPS, Us Helping Us, The DC Center, and the Department of Health (DC Health & Wellness Center). They help individuals through trauma, through depression, and even through loneliness.
You know, sometimes you can just feel lonely. Sometimes, you need someone in your corner and they’re just consistently there.
If you could say anything or give one piece of advice to someone struggling with their gender identity, what would it be?
I would say, ‘keep your head up’. You are wonderful. You are made perfectly. Believe in yourself — come into this newfound perspective of yourself. Don’t give up on yourself and always remember but you have to rely on you for your own happiness and stability. Try to be that strong individual for yourself, just in case you don’t have stronger individuals in your corner.
You are wonderful. You are made perfectly. Believe in yourself — come into this newfound perspective of yourself.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I didn’t get to where I am all by myself. Believe me, if I had a list of the names of all of the people that helped me develop into a person that others love and look up to, it would be very long. And I thank all these individuals for what they have taught me, walked me through, and helped me to achieve.
Hear more about Porsha’s experience of living while transgender in the District:
Looking to further celebrate the trans/nb community this TDoR? Check out these trans-friendly reads on the Sexual + Being blog: