Huffington Post, USA
Actress, producer and transgender advocate; co-creator and star, 'TRANSform Me'
Lorena Escalera: A Life That Mattered
Posted: 05/15/2012 5:37 pm
Several years into my transtion about a decade ago, I thought
seriously about killing myself. Life was really hard. I wasn't passing
as my true female self very well. I often was called a man as I walked
down the street. I didn't think I would ever be accepted as the woman
I always knew I was, and I wanted to end it. In the note I was going
to write to accompany my death, I was going to have explicit
instructions about the pronouns that should be used to refer to me in
death. I was going to write that I shouldn't be referred to by the
name on my birth certificate but by the name that reflects my female
identity -- that is, my legal name, the name I took after I dropped my
old first name. ("Laverne" was my middle name, and "Cox" was my last
name at birth.) I basically didn't want to be disrespected and
misgendered in my death, as all too often happens to transgender folks
in news reports on our deaths.
I was reminded of that this weekend when I read the unfortunate New
York Times article about the death of Lorena Escalera
, a woman who died in a Brooklyn fire. The reporters were careful to
use the correct pronouns when referring to Escalera but were sure to
quote someone who did not use the correct pronoun to refer to her:
"''For a man, he was gorgeous,' Mr. Hernandez said, noting Ms.
Escalera's flowing hair and 'hourglass figure.'" This is just one of
many passages in the article that sexualize and objectify her. Autumn
Sandeen calls attention to this in her piece on Pam's House Blend
In a speech I made in Albany last week
, I talked about violence against transgender women of color and how
our lives are not valued. This Times article is a great example of
that. I didn't personally know Lorena, but we were Facebook friends.
After reading about her death, I went to her Facebook page and saw all
the messages from friends of Lorena's, friends who were devastated by
the news of her death, friends who talked about her beautiful spirit
and how many lives she touched. Lorena's life mattered. Transgender
In a HuffPost blog I wrote last month
, I noted how a news outlet reporting on the brutal murder of trans
woman Coko Williams showed a photo of trash to accompany the story.
The Times article follows this sad paradigm: It reads, "A debris pile
outside the apartment, which is above a funeral home, contained many
colorful items. Among them were wigs, women's shoes, coins from around
the world, makeup, hair spray, handbags, a shopping bag from Spandex
House, a red feather boa and a pamphlet on how to quit smoking."
Reporting on trash in articles about the deaths of transgender women
enrages me in ways I can't even explain. When I wanted to kill myself,
I felt so utterly dehumanized and demoralized by living in a world
that was not having me. I have struggled and continue to struggle to
not only have dignity and to carve out a place in the world for myself
but to treat myself as if my life matters. My life matters.
Transgender lives matter. Lorena Escalera's life mattered. Rest in
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