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  • Kimberlee Runnion

I don't want to remember, but I can't forget.


I have a very good memory. I always have. It's typically not a bad thing - in fact as I spent this week studying for finals, I found it to be a very good thing - but it certainly has its cons. I often remember others' names and faces after only a brief introduction, which can make it awkward when they don't remember me. I remember what I was wearing, who sat where, what the smells in the room were, etc., even for mundane memories. So when trauma creeps in, my memory can be a burden, to say the least.

Today, I'm wearing brightly colored long jogging pants, a t-shirt with my favorite comedic duo on it, and a pink cardigan. I wanted to be comfortable while I studied. Then it hit me: this is one of the outfits I wore to visit my son in the hospital - the first hospitalization, the one after he tried to kill himself in front of me. I don't want to remember this. Not now. Not ever. That was the worst day of my life that stretched into two weeks in the ER, that stretched into months of not seeing my son. And here I am, wearing the same outfit, months later, flashing back to that terrible day.

I started writing this post on November 20, 2018, the 16th anniversary of the day my mom and I moved into the first house we lived in without my dad, the 16th anniversary of the day my dad remarried (I'm telling you, my memory can be disgusting). This year, it was also Transgender Remembrance Day. I started writing about Transgender Remembrance Day but couldn't quite finish the post, couldn't quite find the right words. But here I am in my bright-colored jogging pants, my t-shirt with my favorite comedic duo, and my pink cardigan, thinking about memory, and needing to return to this post.

--

Today is Transgender Remembrance Day. One of my friends at the seminary put together a beautiful vigil to honor those we've lost. Given that we didn't have a lot of planning time, I wasn't expecting much when I walked in, and I was blown away. I walked in to an almost completely dark room, where I could see that other bodies were sitting, but I could barely make out faces. A casket stood in the center of the room, and the outer walls were lined with tables full of votive candles. At the front, a screen projected the names of all the beloveds from the trans community who have been killed in the past year.

As I sat in almost total darkness, I hummed to myself: Veni Sancte Spiritus. Come Holy Spirit. I kept watching the names scroll by. Names of people I never knew. Many names I didn't know how to pronounce. So. Many. Names.

And I started to wonder, what does it mean to remember? Would I read these unknown names, walk out the door, and go write my theology paper? Is that what it means to remember? How does God teach us to remember?

God remembers Noah and stops the flood. God remembers Rachel and opens her womb. God remembers, and God acts.

So how can I best remember the beloved trans individuals who have been killed this year? How can I remember the beloved trans individuals who were abused this year? How can you remember? Will we remember?

When I was in the process of fostering my son, I learned from one of the foster caseworkers that the most likely group to be sex trafficked in the United States are LGBTQ foster children. I have not found research to back that up simply because the research hasn't been done. But here's something I did find:

LGBTQ youth are overrepresented in the child welfare system, where they are more likely to have negative experiences and less likely to achieve permanency than their heterosexual and cisgender peers. The literature also shows a disproportionate percentage of youth who are currently in foster care are victims of sex trafficking and that youth who have aged out of foster care are at a higher risk for homelessness and vulnerability to sex trafficking. Although there is a dearth of research when it comes to the experiences of transgender and GNC youth with a history of child welfare involvement, one can imagine the compounding factors may make them more vulnerable to sex trafficking (Tomasiewicz, 2018).

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That's where I stopped. It was as far as I could get. Maybe it was never meant to be finished. But I'll try.

Memory doesn't mean lamenting the past - it means making the future better. It means creating a better mental health system that values people of all genders so that no mother ever has to experience what I went through, watching every hospital refuse to treat my son, forcing us to live separately. It means providing not safe spaces but a safe world for all children. It means melting down the fucking guns, at least making it more difficult to kill all of those beloved people we lost this year. It means not engaging in the trafficking of children. It means protecting children. It means never forgetting what I wore that day.


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