Zoraida Reyes was a real person, not just a name on a list.

Disclaimer: I didn’t know the woman. I have no interest in claiming the loss of a person I didn’t know as a personal tragedy for me, no matter how au courant that is in the “trans community.”

So I’m reading Facebook on a Sunday morning when I come on a bunch of reposts of a Daily Kos article about the tragic and untimely death of Ms. Reyes. You know how FB clumps them together now, so 7 out of the 190ish people I update about minutae in my life saw it fit to post.

The comments of other users were largely supportive or a bit angry. But the keystone was one white trans guy (the selfsame one who called me an “asshole on the internet” and an “ungrateful bitch” over my blog post on how bullshit Gwen Smith’s ownership and shitty stewardship of TDoR is) who made comments on multiple posts about “another name for the list” and “another name we have to read”. There was also some question on his part about if Zoraida was her correctly-gendered name, since he’d ‘never heard of it before’ and ‘it’s important to get names right on the list.’ Now, if this happened to be Oskar Schindler, who had to be absolutely accurate to assist in saving lives, I’d be alright with that. But this is a white guy from suburbia who needs that list of dead trans women of color so he and his can talk about what a tragedy it is, whilst he and his don’t actually know more than one or two token trans women of color, and that bunch sure as shit never listens to us. He’s completely detached from that list being anything but names, our deaths anything but a score.

This guy is symbolic of the problem, just like Gwen Smith’s continuing refusal to turn TDoR leadership over: white people who live in bubbles and think they get to determine the course of our community. White people who steer “trans community” into the rocks and then yell at those of us rowing in the trenches it’s our fault we rowed into them. We’re reduced by these folks to being names on a list in death and tokens to be trotted out when it suits their white needs in life.

Ms. Reyes was a real human being. Not someone who can be reduced to a name, or the shitty lurid coverage media outlets are providing of her death. She’s not a name on a list, she was a real person with a life, a family, hopes, and dreams, and now she’s dead.

Let’s talk about that tragedy as a community, not about how she’s a name on a list. Let’s talk about how to protect trans women and girls of color at all costs rather than continuing to consider our deaths part of the cost of doing business and often parroting the comments of less supportive cis people who feel we deserve it somehow. Let’s create real change rather than seeing our whole role as trans women and girls of color being that we’re supposed to get killed and be names on a list or being tokens who can speak at your gathering to pad your “diversity” and then throwing us back in the basement for the rest of the year.

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