In the immediate wake of Donald Trump’s election, with Boston winter bearing down, single candles started appearing in the windows of old houses in my quiet beachside neighborhood of Savin Hill. Just one or two at first, and then many. Little yellow flecks against the dusk. Defiance against defeat.
The internet didn’t have an explanation for the candles except that for generations, people of all faiths had put them in windows to promote hope when it seemed like all was lost.
I dug into my Christmas decorations and pulled out a plastic candle, stuck it in the front window. It glowed there every night through the spring until one day, the battery unceremoniously died.
By May, I was done lighting candles. I left it sitting cold and dark on the sill.
Living as a non-binary trans person in Trump’s America, I was waiting to be erased, watching the people I loved of every identity already being written off the books. I wasn’t alone. The other candles in the neighborhood disappeared around that time, too.
Yesterday, Lorena Borjas, a champion for transgender people and the undocumented, died of coronavirus, sending shockwaves through trans communities across the nation. Idaho Gov. Brad Little signed two landmark anti-trans bills amid this pandemic that threatens all of our lives, livelihoods and ways of being.
Today is Transgender Day of Visibility, a celebration so greatly minimized this year by a global crisis of unimaginable scale. Suddenly our vulnerabilities as trans people, always multitudes greater than our peers, are even more pronounced.
My friends keep texting me and asking me what gives me hope during this time. The truth is that I don’t know that I have a lot of it. But, as a trans person, I feel uniquely prepared for this moment. Because I am transgender, I never assumed I would grow old. I never really had a lot of elders to look to, to see myself grow up as. The histories where I am most closely reflected almost universally end in tragedy.
And so, every day that I get to wake up feels like a gift. Every day that my people are here is also a gift. I suppose this is a kind of hope. Or at least gratitude.
I recognize that at this moment, the world feels unbearably bleak, perhaps more lonely than it ever has. It is in moments like these I am most grateful to be trans. We were built for this, for resilience. Maybe that is its own kind of Trans Day of Visibility celebration.