I was talking to my boyfriend about Trans Day of Visibility (TDOV) and Trans Day of Remembrance (TDOR). He asked if it was our equinox – instead of summer and spring we have a celebration and a remembrance. I had not thought of the days in those terms before, but it rings true. We have allowed ourselves a setting and a rising. Our Trans Equinox. It marks our years and the months that stretch between.
Approaching either TDOV and TDOR brings a wealth of complicated feelings. Equinox by definition is a date equal parts day and night. Holding this word – equinox – in my mind, I wonder about this web of celebration and grief on these days that can be close to impossible to untangle at times. This light and dark.
Both days ask for us to gather, today virtually so. It is impossible not to celebrate our collective survival when we are together, when we can feel the ways our bodies and lives have proven relentless against this world’s expectations. Our presence is proof of our power. Equally so, it is impossible not to grieve for those we have lost along the way, often stolen from us from forces who fear our existence and can’t reconcile theirs in the context of ours. The celebration and the grief have an established co-existence.
TDOV is a designated day of celebration. Yet, today, our community is reeling from the loss of an unparalleled leader. The loss of Lorena Borjas is one that will never and could never be filled. Bearing witness to her virtual memorial last night and those who shared their memories, it was clear that Lorena embodied this notion of visibility. She made herself known. She sought people out. She was persistent and determined because it wasn’t just her survival she was concerned about but communities upon communities – trans, Latinx, migrant, sex worker, incarcerated, and the list goes on. She needed people to listen. She needed people to see her. She needed people to remember her and every person she brought along, every name she wrote down.
This idea of visibility can be accompanied by conflicting feelings – pride and shame, pressure and inspiration, platforms and recognition and vulnerability and harm. But today, I’m thinking about what it means to be seen, truly seen in your wholeness.
I only had the luck to spend (brief) time with Lorena once. It was the Commission’s annual Cielo gala last year in New York and she was there to receive our Sylvia Rivera Fuerza award. I knew of Lorena and her work. Even being in the South, she’s a legend in our trans community. I had been texting with my friend Chase who co-founded the Lorena Borjas Community Fund alongside her. I was trying to convince him to come to the gala since Lorena was there. He couldn’t make it but he encouraged me to talk to her. After a while of trying to get up the nerve to go over and start a conversation, she caught me watching her and motioned for me to go over. As soon as I was close enough, she wrapped me in her arms, tight, and held me. As she let me go I started to introduce myself and she cut me off and said, I know who you are. I don’t know if that was true. I don’t know if she knew my name or anything more but in any case, I don’t think that’s what she meant. With that hug, with those few words, she made me feel seen, with the full weight of that word. She didn’t need a qualifier to gift people the power of visibility. We are all deserving of that kind of affirmation. It was that recognition of people, often the ones deemed disposable, and their inherent worth that led to her family counting into the hundreds. I had but that one moment with her, but the impact I carry with me. We crossed paths a few times at conferences over the last year, she always had an entourage, and she would smile at me with what felt like a look of warm recognition. Chase said Lorena has saved more people than anyone she’s ever known. I have no doubts.
On TDOV 2020, to all my trans family, I hope on this day and every other day that follows that you are seen and held in your wholeness. May we all carry on Lorena’s legacy of seeing each other in our sacredness.
- Joaquin Carcano, Latino Commission on AIDS