Saturday, March 24, 2007

Vigil Against Violence

About two hours ago, mourners gathered in San
Francisco in memory of Ruby Rodriguez, a transgender
Latina woman who was found murdered in the city's
Mission District. Ruby died one week ago today, one
of at least three transgender women of color to be
murdered in the Bay Area over the past six months.
And this is the Bay Area, one of the most—if not the
most—open, supportive places in this country to live
if one is transgender. A press release from Community
United Against Violence asks, "Let us not forget Ruby.
She was an exceptional woman who was intent on
improving her life. Ruby participated in various
support groups and language classes, and idolized
Chicana singer Selena." You can read more of the
press release at

This news takes me back to the death of Gwen Araujo in
2002. As it so happened, that year my partner and I
were living in the Bay Area. It also happened to be
the year I was transitioning. The murder hit me
pretty hard. The day of Gwen's funeral I drove over
and participated in a vigil outside the church. I'd
heard that Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church
had threatened to come and protest outside the
funeral, and I wanted to be there in support of Gwen's
family and friends. The crowd was a mix of students
from Gwen's school (Newark Memorial High), neighbors,
and transgender community members. As it turned out,
the Newark high school drama crew was putting on a
production of the Laramie Project, a play by Moisés
Kaufman about the aftermath of the murder of Matthew
Shepherd, a young gay man killed in Laramie Wyoming in
1998. One of the most moving scenes in the Laramie
Project occurs when mourners shield Shepherd's family
from members of Phelps's Church. They achieve their
shield by wearing angel costumes with huge wings:
standing side by side, the wings block the protesters
from view. That day at Gwen Araujo's funeral in
Newark, California, I was stunned to see the high
school's angel cast members in full winged regalia,
ready to shield the family from any foes. Thankfully,
none showed up.

I pray that the memorial vigil earlier tonight also
took place in peace.

As Chris Daly of the Transgender Law Center in San
Francisco has said, it isn't clear if the number of
hate crimes against trans people has increased or
whether we're simply able to identify better them now
). I pray for all impacted by these murders, and for
an end to the practice of violently writing our
dominant culture's norms of gender, race, immigration
status, sexuality and class on the bodies of those who
transgress them.

Rev. Cameron Partridge

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