May 12, Day 4 & May 13, Day 5 – Speaking as Self-Care and Self-Harm

TW: none. 

In 2013, I chose to start speaking out about my experience with anti-gay violence.

I thought it would be healing – and for a while, it was.

I thought speaking was a form of self-care – and for a while, it was.

In 2015, I chose to dramatically reduce the amount I shared publicly about my trauma and living in the aftermath.

After a while, speaking only reopened the wounds of what had happened to me.

After a while, speaking caused me to re-experience the trauma far more often than it enabled me to feel at peace.

After a while, speaking exacerbated the pain, the sadness, and the fear which still lingered, even after all that time had passed.

Speaking was no longer healing. It had become a form of self-harm – so I stopped.

There’s an unspoken – yet relatively forceful – pressure in activist culture to share. Sharing about the painful experiences in our lives is seen as a way through them – as a way we can heal from them.

And it can be, absolutely.

But sometimes it isn’t.

For some of us, speaking helps and heals more than it hurts and hinders. For some of us, it doesn’t.

Why should we embrace a one-size-fits-all model of healing?

Speaking isn’t for everyone.

Instead of speaking, some of us create. We paint and draw. We write and direct. We string beads and stones together. We create works of art. We use our hands and bodies and minds and hearts to find beauty in the aftermath of horror.

Instead of speaking, some of us run toward the things which bring us joy and peace. We embrace our deepest-held passions and desires. We embrace nature. We embrace lightness and goodness. We embrace the people, creatures, places, and activities who remind us there is still much we can love in this world.

Instead of speaking, some of us find alternative ways to engage with our painful histories. Some of us choose to leave our traumas behind as best we can after we’ve found some semblance of calm. Some of us will never be able to speak out and share in the way activist culture often asks of us. And that’s okay.

If speaking out is a form of self-care for you, I support you, and I encourage you to use your voice to tell your story and speak as loudly as you find helpful for you.

But if speaking effectively acts as a form of self-harm for you, I want you to know that you don’t have to.

Speaking isn’t the key to healing. You are your own key to healing. You will find what works for you, and whatever works for you is enough.

The pressure to be a survivor in a certain kind of way, to be an activist in a certain kind of way, to heal in a certain kind of way and give certain kinds of public indications that you have sufficiently addressed your traumas – it absolutely exists, and if you’ve been hurt by it, I’m sorry.

I will stand with you no matter how you have survived up to this point in your life.

You deserved better than what happened to you and you deserve better now than the people who would make you believe you have to share for your story to be valuable.

Author: Meg

May 10, Day 2 & May 11, Day 3 – Take Back the Trails

TW: none

We’ve just passed the second and third days of the Week of Action 2016 and so far I’m two for two on changing the topics I was going to write about. Today, more than anything, I found myself thinking about the overarching theme we chose for this year – “take back the trails.”

It’s interesting to me that this was the theme we chose to focus on not just for a day but throughout the entire event. It doesn’t directly relate to combatting anti-LGBT violence nor is it an action one can take that will tangibly benefit LGBT people as a whole – and yet, this was the message all four of us agreed that we wanted to feature this year.

Why?

On the one hand, the phrase is, of course, intended to be read literally. I first saw “take back the trails” used in the wake of the 1996 murders of girlfriends Julie Williams and Lollie Winans in Shenandoah National Park. Spearheaded by the family and friends of the former, the TBTT movement was created both to honor her life through a continued engagement with something that had been important to her and to unite the women (and women who love women) who no longer felt safe in the outdoors in light of her story and others like it.

I took up the sentiment and the phrase in its literal sense in 2013. It was partly a response to those in my life who, upon hearing about the related story of what happened to Rebecca Wight, declared they could never go back into the woods now that they had a renewed reason to be fearful – creating new distress in marginalized individuals who were already intimately aware of their precarious position within our society was certainly not what I intended or wanted to achieve in bringing the story to their attention. It was partly a response to my own irrationally-heightened fear of being in nature, especially on those trails that take you through deep woods, which I had also acquired after hearing the stories. There may not have been a huge number of them – thankfully, murders on the trails are relatively rare as it is – but the few that have happened were so horrific and excessively awful, it only took those few to exacerbate any unease I had previously felt in the outdoors.

When I rolled the phrase around on my tongue, I found I quite liked it – enough that became a sort of defining personal goal in the years that followed. It was a cry of reclamation and resistance which seemed to evoke a collective feeling in those who embraced the challenge: I am tired of being afraid. If you walk with me, I will walk with you, and we will stand together against the people who want to take all of our joys away from us.

What we like about it is – though the origin of the phrase and idea as I tend to use it refers to reclamation of natural spaces specifically – that the trails don’t have to be literal. We chose to focus on this as the overarching theme of the WoA 2016 because the phrase can also be read metaphorically. “The trails” as we use the word broadly to refer to the outdoors are but one of many sites which have been rendered unsafe in the eyes of vulnerable populations of people due to the acts of individual and social violence which have occurred within them. When we encourage our community to “take back the trails,” what we’re really encouraging LGBT people to do is to take back their trails, the places and spaces they used to enjoy or find solace in that have since become yet another reminder that we are not safe anywhere.

As we have mentioned earlier in the week, the four women who run the Stories Project are all trauma survivors. As survivors, and as people who bear witness to the trauma of fellow members of our community, each of us has that one place we can no longer go because it has been tainted by what has happened to us or people like us there. We are all additionally familiar, to varying levels, with the exhausting state of perpetual fear that can arise when your very existence in this world is precarious, something which is constantly reaffirmed by the looming threat of social violence.

We say “take back the trails” because the people who have committed acts of small-scale and large-scale violence against us have already taken so many precious things from us we can never get back. They have ripped people out of our lives and out of the world; they have stolen pieces of ourselves from us. They have left a dark stain on our ability to feel happy and hopeful; they have done everything in their power to shatter any semblance of safety that we may ever feel. They have given us new reasons to be afraid of the places which used to bring us joy and peace.

This week, we are saying enough is enough. We are tired of being afraid. We are tired of carving out one space in this world for ourselves only to have it ripped away. This week, we intend to send a message to those who have committed violence against us and our community: you can’t have this. We are taking back our trails because they have always belonged to us. And if you, readers and participants, want to take back your own trails with us, we will walk alongside you and reclaim our power together.

Co-created by Meg, Alice, Taliyah, and Maya, written down by Meg

May 9, Day 1 – For Survivors

TW: Alludes to depression brought on by loss and violence.

Sometimes we draw up a list of topics we’re going to blog about and the muse just doesn’t strike on the day we were supposed to address one. When that happens, I’ve found that the best thing to do is to follow the direction I’m being led toward instead, because there’s usually a reason a particular topic isn’t resonating with me that day.

So for May 9, the first day of the Week of Action 2016, instead of talking about why we still do this even though there have been years where the Stories Project Team may well have been the only participants, I’m going to steal one of our themes from last year and focus on that instead: those who survive.

Every May for the past five years, the Stories Project Team has carved out a week to not only remember and reflect upon the stories of those who have been lost to anti-LGBT violence and suicide, but commit to action in their memories.

Every May for the past five years, focusing on these stories for eight weeks or more has forced us all to grapple with the understanding that we are statistics, too. We are victims and survivors – of many things, some of which are unique struggles faced by the LGBT community and some of which aren’t. Had things turned out just slightly differently, we could be part of a different statistic, and it could be our names on those lists instead. I’m not going to lie: that’s an extremely difficult thing to contend with, because the thought gives birth to questions which are not only “why did”s but “why should”s.

Why did we survive when others in our position didn’t?

Why should we have?

If you’re reading this today, I’m going to wager that you’re a survivor, too. Of something. Perhaps not the same things as us, but perhaps so. And I’m going to wager that as a survivor, it’s likely you’ve also experienced a point in your life where you’ve asked those questions, only to learn they have no good answers – certainly none that heal the hurt their presence creates in the first place.

For everyone who lives in the dance of contradictions that is the aftermath of loss and violence, we wanted to take this day to let you know we are with you.

We wanted to tell you that if you survived, we’re glad you did. Maybe it wasn’t for a reason. Maybe it doesn’t have to be. You continue to exist in the world, and that is reason enough.

We wanted to let you know that we support you in all of the ways you have survived up to this point. Whether you healed quickly or you carry some wounds which will never fully heal. Whether you struggle in the aftermath or whether you have thrived. Whether you regard yourself as a victim or survivor or both or neither. You matter, and your experience matters, and it doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s.

We wanted to tell you that the world is brighter with you in it and would be darker if you weren’t. I can’t promise that everything will be okay, or that someday you will no longer cry nor struggle – not to myself and not to any of you. I can promise, however, that we are loved, that the lives we lead are important, that there is still much to love in the world, and that we will find ways to make living worthwhile in spite of the days where the world feels like too much to bear.

This May, while we look back on the stories of hate, violence, and loss, let us stand together in love and solidarity and take care of each other. We have so much to grieve for, but we also have so much to appreciate, to be hopeful for, and to be happy about. Let us cry together for those we have lost and for those pieces of ourselves we have lost, and then, let us stand together and find reasons to go on, together.

Author: Meg

List of Names – WoA 2016

TW: This post is just a list with no graphic details; however, many of the links following each name involve one or a combination of the following: anti-LGBT violence, murder, suicide (including descriptions of methods), rape, police brutality, transmisogyny, victim-blaming, shaming of sex workers/whorephobia, misgendering, misogyny, racism, abuse.

This is the list of people whose stories we have cataloged to highlight specifically during the Week of Action 2016. These are 241 stories we were able to find information on, including those who were hate crime victims, those whose murders are unsolved, those who died by suicide, and those with an entirely different story to tell. Each year we compile a list of names to remind ourselves and those who participate in the event that regardless of the strides we make and the victories we celebrate, so long as people who are (and are perceived as) LGBTQ are at an increased risk of violence and an increased risk of mental illness, our fight is far from over.

That said, we strongly advise anyone who is currently experiencing suicidal thoughts or ideation to avoid looking into these stories in any detail or clicking on these links. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Lifeline at 866-488-7386, or the Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860; text “start” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741; or explore our Self-Care Masterpost instead.

Murdered Lesbian, Bisexual, and Pansexual Women and Girls
1. Cathy Thomas, age 27, 1986. Story. *unsolved*
2. Becky Dowski, age 21, 1986. Story. *unsolved*
3. Rebecca Wight, age 28, 1988. Story. *solved*
4. Talana Kreeger, age 32, 1990. Story. *solved*
5. Roxanne Ellis, age 53, 1995. Story. *solved*
6. Michelle Abdill, age 42, 1995. Story. *solved*
7. Julie Williams, age 24, 1996. Story. *unsolved*
8. Lollie Winans, age 26, 1996. Story. *unsolved*
9. Juana Vega, age 36, 2001. Story. *solved*
10. Sakia Gunn, age 15, 2003. Story. *solved*
11. FannyAnn Eddy, age 30, 2004. Story. *unclear*
12. Zoliswa Nkonyana, age 19, 2006. Story. *solved*
13. Madoe Mafubedu, age 16, 2007. Story. *unclear*
14. Thokozani Qwabe, age 23, 2007. Story. *unclear*
15. Salome Masooa, age 23, 2007. Story. *unclear*
16. Sizakele Sigasa, age 34, 2007. Story. *unclear*
17. Simangele Nhlapo, age unknown, 2007. Story. *unclear*
18. Eudy Simelane, age 31, 2008. Story. *solved*
19. Ncumisa Mzamelo, age 21, 2010. Story. *unsolved*
20. Noxolo Nogwaza, age 24, 2011. Story. *unsolved*
21. Mollie Olgin, age 19, 2012. Story. *solved*
22. Sihle Sikoji, age 19, 2012. Story. *unclear*
23. Phumeza Nkolonzi, age 21/22, 2012. Story. *unclear*
24. Andritha Morifi, age 29, 2012. Story. *unclear*
25. Duduzile Zozo, age 26, 2013. Story. *solved*
26. Patricia Mashigo, age 36, 2013. Story. *unsolved*
27. Gift Makau, age 18, 2014. Story. *trial pending*
28. Britney Cosby, age 24, 2014. Story. *unclear*
29. Crystal Jackson, age 24, 2014. Story. *unclear*

Murdered Gay, Bisexual, and Pansexual Men and Boys
1. Doug Williams, Jr., age 20, 1973. Story. *unsolved*
2. Donald Dunbar, age 21, 1973. Story. *unsolved*
3. David Gary, age 22, 1973. Story. *unsolved*
4. Eddie Warren, age 24, 1973. Story. *unsolved*
5. Reggie Adams, age 24, 1973. Story. *unsolved*
6. Larry Stratton, age 25, 1973. Story. *unsolved*
7. Horace Broussard, age 26, 1973. Story. *unsolved*
8. James Warren, age 26, 1973. Story. *unsolved*
9. Bud Matyi, age 27, 1973. Story. *unsolved*
10. Bobby Lumpkin, age 29, 1973. Story. *unsolved*
11. Bill Bailey, age 29, 1973. Story. *unsolved*
12. Mitch Mitchell, age 31, 1973. Story. *unsolved*
13. Leon Maples, age 31, 1973. Story. *unsolved*
14. Hugh Cooley, age 32, 1973. Story. *unsolved*
15. Adam Fontenot, age 32, 1973. Story. *unsolved*
16. Glenn Green, age 32, 1973. Story. *unsolved*
17. Skip Getchell, Jr., age 35, 1973. Story. *unsolved*
18. Gerry Gordon, age 37, 1973. Story. *unsolved*
19. Guy Andersen, age 41, 1973. Story. *unsolved*
20. Perry Waters, Jr., age 41, 1973. Story. *unsolved*
21. Jim Hambrick, age 45, 1973. Story. *unsolved*
22. Luther Boggs, age 47, 1973. Story. *unsolved*
23. Bill Larson, age 47, 1973. Story. *unsolved*
24. Ken Harrington, age 48, 1973. Story. *unsolved*
25. Clarence McCloskey, Jr., age 48, 1973. Story. *unsolved*
26. John Golding, Sr., age 49, 1973. Story. *unsolved*
27. Ferris LeBlanc, age 50, 1973. Story. *unsolved*
28. Joe Adams, age 51, 1973. Story. *unsolved*
29. Charlie Howard, age 23, 1984. Story. *solved*
30. John Lloyd Griffin, age 27, 1988. Story. *solved*
31. Tommy Lee Trimble, age 34, 1988. Story. *solved*
32. Joe Rose, age 23, 1989. Story. *solved*
33. Jimmy Zappalorti, age 44, 1990. Story. *solved*
34. Paul Broussard, age 27, 1991. Story. *solved*
35. Thanh Nguyen, age 29, 1991. Story. *solved*
36. Joel Larson, age 21, 1991. Story. *solved*
37. Allen Schindler, Jr., age 22, 1992. Story. *solved*
38. Nick West, age 23, 1993. Story. *solved*
39. Fred Mangione, age 46, 1996. Story. *solved*
40. Matthew Shepard, age 21, 1998. Story. *solved*
41. Billy Jack Gaither, age 39, 1999. Story. *solved*
42. Winfield Mowder, age 40, 1999. Story. *solved*
43. Gary Matson, age 50, 1999. Story. *solved*
44. Steen Fenrich, age 19, 2000. Story. *solved*
45. Danny Overstreet, age 43, 2000. Story. *solved*
46. Scotty Joe Weaver, age 18, 2002. Story. *solved*
47. Dano Fetty, age 39, 2004. Story. *solved*
48. Brian Williamson, age 58, 2004. Story. *solved*
49. Jody Dobrowski, age 24, 2005. Story. *solved*
50. Amancio Corrales, age 23, 2005. Story. *unclear*
51. Michael Sandy, age 29, 2006. Story. *solved*
52. Ryan Skipper, age 25, 2007. Story. *solved*
53. Ian Baynham, age 62, 2009. Story. *solved*
54. August Provost, age 29, 2009. Story. *unclear*
55. Jorge Steven López Mercado, age 19, 2009. Story. *solved*
56. Lawrence Corrêa Biancão, age 20, 2012. Story. *solved*
57. Mark Carson, age 32, 2013. Story. *solved*
58. Kaique Batista dos Santos, age 16, 2014. Story. *unclear*
59. Jay, age unknown, year unknown. Story. *solved*

Murdered Transgender and Gender-Variant Women and Girls
1. Shirley Hauser, age 20, 1978. Story. *solved*
2. Carla Leigh Salazar, age 35, 1989. Story. *solved*
3. Grayce Baxter, age 26, 1992. Story. *solved*
4. Chanelle Pickett, age 23, 1995. Story. *solved*
5. Rita Hester, age 34, 1998. Story. *unsolved*
6. Terrianne Summers, age 51, 2001. Story. *unsolved*
7. Gwen Araujo, age 17, 2002. Story. *solved*
8. Ukea Davis, age 18, 2002. Story. *unsolved*
9. Stephanie Thomas, age 19, 2002. Story. *unsolved*
10. Arlene Diaz, age 28, 2002. Story. *solved*
11. Nizah Morris, age 46/47, 2002. Story. *unclear*
12. Nireah Johnson, age 17, 2003. Story. *solved*
13. Bella Evangelista, age 25, 2003. Story. *solved*
14. Emonie Spaulding, age 26, 2003. Story. *solved*
15. Rupesh Mandal, age 13, 2006. Story. *solved*
16. Tiffany Berry, age 21, 2006. Story. *solved*
17. Gisberta Salce, Jr., age 46, 2006. Story. *solved*
18. Erika Keels, age 20, 2007. Story. *unclear*
19. Angie Zapata, age 18, 2008. Story. *solved*
20. Lateisha Green, age 22, 2008. Story. *solved*
21. Sanesha Stewart, age 25, 2008. Story. *solved*
22. January Lapuz, age 26, 2008. Story. *solved*
23. Nakhia Williams, age 29, 2008. Story. *solved*
24. Taysia Elzy, age 34, 2008. Story. *solved*
25. Duanna Johnson, age 43, 2008. Story. *unclear*
26. Tyli’a Mack, age 21, 2009. Story. *unclear*
27. Kamilla, age 30, 2009. Story. *unsolved*
28. Cynthia Nicole, age 32, 2009. Story. *unsolved*
29. Chanel Larkin, age 26, 2010. Story. *solved*
30. Victoria Carmen White, age 28, 2010. Story. *solved*
31. Amanda Gonzalez-Andujar, age 29, 2010. Story. *solved*
32. Ramazan Çetin, age 24, 2011. Story. *solved*
33. Didem, age 26, 2011. Story. *unclear*
34. Dee Dee Pearson, age 31, 2011. Story. *solved*
35. Guilherme de Souza, age 16, 2012. Story. *unclear*
36. Tiffany Gooden, age 19, 2012. Story. *unsolved*
37. Victoria da Silva Costa, age 21, 2012. Story. *unclear*
38. Paige Clay, age 23, 2012. Story. *unsolved*
39. Deoni Jones, age 23, 2012. Story. *trial pending*
40. Laryssa Silveira, age 24, 2012. Story. *unclear*
41. Sheila Viegas Silva, age 25, 2012. Story. *unclear*
42. Lorena Escalera, age 25, 2012. Story. *unsolved*
43. Kyra Cordova, age 27, 2012. Story. *unsolved*
44 Agnes Torres Sulca, age 28, 2012. Story. *arrest made*
45. Coko Williams, age 35, 2012. Story. *unsolved*
46. Brandy Martell, age 37, 2012. Story. *unsolved*
47. Dalva Dalvanei Alves Pereira, age 37, 2012. Story. *unclear*
48. Cassandra Zapata, age 39, 2012. Story. *unclear*
49. Demetrio Apaza Mayta, age 42, 2012. Story. *unclear*
50. Camila, age unknown, 2012. Story. *unclear*
51. CeCe Dove, age 20, 2013. Story. *solved*
52. Nicole Galisteu, age 20, 2013. Story. *arrests made*
53. Islan Nettles, age 21, 2013. Story. *solved*
54. Brittany-Nicole Kidd-Stergis, age 22, 2013. Story. *arrest made*
55. Dora Özer, age 24, 2013. Story. *unclear*
56. Eyricka Morgan, age 26, 2013. Story. *arrest made*
57. Thalia Batista Mendes, age 31, 2013. Story. *unclear*
58. Domonique Newburn, age 31, 2013. Story. *trial pending*
59. Diamond Williams, age 31, 2013. Story. *solved*
60. Konyale Madden, age 34, 2013. Story. *unclear*
61. Gaye, age 40, 2013. Story. *unclear*
62. Mylène, age 42, 2013. Story. *unclear*
63. Betty Skinner, age 52, 2013. Story. *unclear*
64. Esmeralda Garcia Retes, age unknown, 2013. Story. *unclear*
65. Cecilia Marahouse, age unknown, 2013. Story. *unclear*
66. Alex Medeiros, age 8, 2014. Story. *unsolved*
67. Deshawnda Sanchez, age 21, 2014. Story. *arrest made*
68. Dafine dos Santos Cameiro, age 22, 2014. Story. *unclear*
69. Makelly Castro, age 24, 2014. Story. *unsolved*
70. Ashley Sherman, age 25, 2014. Story. *unsolved*
71. Mia Henderson, age 26, 2014. Story. *unsolved*
72. Jennifer Laude, age 26, 2014. Story. *solved*
73. Mayang Prasetyo, age 27, 2014. Story. *solved*
74. Tiffany Edwards, age 28, 2014. Story. *arrest made*
75. Zoraida Reyes, age 28, 2014. Story. *arrest made*
76. Yaz’min Shancez, age 31, 2014. Story. *unsolved*
77. Kandy Hall, age 40, 2014. Story. *unsolved*
78. Alejandra Leos, age 41, 2014. Story. *solved*
79. Aniya Parker, age 47, 2014. Story. *arrest made*
80. Mary Joy Añonuevo, age 55, 2014. Story. *unsolved*
81. Penny Proud, age 21, 2015. Story. *unsolved*
82. Ty Underwood, age 24, 2015. Story. *arrest made*
83. Lamia Beard, age 30, 2015. Story. *unsolved*
84. Taja De Jesus, age 36, 2015. Story. *unclear*
85. Kristina Grant Infiniti, age 46, 2015. Story. *unsolved*

Murdered Transgender and Gender-Variant Men and Boys
1. Brandon Teena, age 21, 1993. Story. *solved*

Other Murder Victims
Of these: Fred Martinez, Jr. identified as two-spirit. Thapelo Makutle identified as gay and transgender. In the cases of Larry King and Simmie Williams, Jr., they identified as gay and it is uncertain if they also identified with a different gender identity. Inez Warren and Barry Winchell identified as straight and cisgender but nonetheless became victims to anti-LGBT violence. In the cases of Jeff Whittington, Vlad Tornovoi, and Dwayne Jones, it is unclear or there are conflicting reports about how they identified. It is completely unknown who the first three men are.
1. UpStairs Lounge Unknown 1, age unknown, 1973. Story. *unsolved*
2. UpStairs Lounge Unknown 2, age unknown, 1973. Story. *unsolved*
3. UpStairs Lounge Unknown 3, age unknown, 1973. Story. *unsolved*
4. Inez Warren, age 59, 1973. Story. *unsolved*
5. Jeff Whittington, age 14, 1999. Story. *solved*
6. Barry Winchell, age 21, 1999. Story. *solved*
7. Fred Martinez, Jr., age 16, 2001. Story. *solved*
8. Larry King, age 15, 2008. Story. *solved*
9. Simmie Williams, Jr., age 17, 2008. Story. *unsolved*
10. Thapelo Makutle, age 23, 2012. Story. *unsolved*
11. Dwayne Jones, age 16, 2013. Story. *unsolved*
12. Vlad Tornovoi, age 23, 2013. Story. *solved*

Lesbian, Bisexual, and Pansexual Women and Girls Who Died by Suicide
1. Anna Wakefield, age 29, 1997. Story.
2. Puja Mondal, age 17, 2011. Story.
3. Bobby Saha, age 19, 2011. Story.
4. Catherine, age unknown, 2012/2013. Story.

Gay, Bisexual, and Pansexual Men and Boys Who Died by Suicide
1. Bobby Griffith, age 20, 1983. Story.
2. Bill Clayton, age 17, 1995. Story.
3. Asher Brown, age 13, 2010. Story.
4. Seth Walsh, age 13, 2010. Story.
5. Justin Aaberg, age 15, 2010. Story.
6. Tyler Clementi, age 18, 2010. Story.
7. Jamey Rodemeyer, age 14, 2011. Story.
8. Jamie Hubley, age 15, 2011. Story.
9. Rafael Morelos, age 14, 2012. Story.
10. Phillip Parker, age 14, 2012. Story.
11. Kenneth Weishuhn, Jr., age 14, 2012 Story.
12. Brandon Elizares, age 16, 2012. Story.
13. Corey Jones, age 17, 2012. Story.
14. Josh Pacheco, age 17, 2012. Story.
15. Jack Reese, age 17, 2012. Story.
16. Jeffrey Fehr, age 18, 2012. Story.
17. Eric James Borges, age 19, 2012. Story.
18. Ayden Keenan-Olson, age 14, 2013. Story.
19. Jadin Bell, age 15, 2013. Story.
20. Carlos Vigil, age 17, 2013. Story.
21. Ben Wood, age 21, 2013. Story.
22. Blake Boothe, age 14, 2014. Story.
23. Isa Shakhmarli, age 20, 2014. Story.

Transgender Women and Girls Who Died by Suicide
1. Michelle Lynne O’Hara, age unknown, 2000. Story.
2. Chloe Lacey, age 18, 2010. Story.
3. Lucy Meadows, age 32, 2013. Story.
4. Leelah Alcorn, age 17, 2014. Story.
5. Kate Von Roeder, age 27, 2014. Story.
6. Melonie Rose, age 19, 2015. Story.
7. Charlotte Amelia Loh, age 22, 2015. Story.
8. Eylül Cansin, age 23, 2015. Story.
9. Aubrey Mariko Shine, age 22, 2015. Story.

Transgender Men and Boys Who Died by Suicide
1. Landon Lopez-Brandies, age 14, 2013. Story.
2. Riley Moscatel, age 17, 2014. Story.
3. Zander Mahaffey, age 15, 2015. Story.
4. Ash Haffner, age 16, 2015. Story.

Other Deaths by Suicide
Of these: Many did not identify as LGBT at all but were nonetheless influenced by anti-LGBT bullying. In a couple of cases, it is unclear or unknown how they identified.
1. Eric Mohat, age 17, 2007. Story.
2. Cameron McWilliams, age 10, 2008. Story.
3. Carl Walker-Hoover, age 11, 2009. Story.
4. Jaheem Herrera, age 11, 2009. Story.
5. Samantha Johnson, age 13, 2009. Story.
6. Dominic Crouch, age 15, 2010. Story.
7. Ronin Shimizu, age 12, 2014. Story.

Other Deaths
Of these: Albert Kennedy died accidentally while attemping to flee homophobic assailants. Tyra Hunter died after emergency personnel withdrew medical treatment after discovering she was transgender. Eric Calitz, Nicolas Van Der Walt, and Raymond Buys died at a so-called conversion camp. Sean Kennedy was a victim of manslaughter. Jennifer Gale died of heart disease that was exacerbated by sleeping outside, bringing light to the lack of accessible homeless shelters for transgender people. Jessie Hernandez was a victim of police brutality.
1. Albert Kennedy, age 16, 1989. Story.
2. Tyra Hunter, age 24, 1995. Story.
3. Eric Calitz, age 18, 2007. Story.
4. Nicolas Van Der Walt, age 19, 2007. Story.
5. Sean Kennedy, age 20, 2007. Story.
6. Jennifer Gale, age 47, 2008. Story.
7. Raymond Buys, age 15, 2011/2012. Story.
8. Jessie Hernandez, age 16, 2015. Story.

Ideas for Taking Action – WoA 2016

TW: none. 

“Our challenge to everyone who is interested in taking part in the Week of Action is to do something positive for the LGBT community during the week. We challenge you to take one action – though you can certainly do more if you like. Something that makes the world a little better and a little safer for LGBT people in memory of those who lived and died in a world which was not so great or safe for them to live authentically.”

The challenge we pose to all who want to participate in the Week of Action is one that is so simple it can become complicated if we overthink it. “What do you mean?” and “What should I do?” are common questions we receive before and throughout the event. Rest assured, there are no hidden meanings to it! If you’re someone who is unclear about what this event is or what actions you could take that would be beneficial, we’ve written up this post to help clarify the challenge and give all participants some ideas of where they could start.

We generally leave the “action, awareness, and activism” aspect of the event intentionally vague and open-ended so that all participants can create interpretations that are meaningful to them. We don’t have specific actions we are asking people to do when they decide to take on the challenge. Whatever you feel compelled to do, whatever you feel would make a positive impact – this is your opportunity to do it.

It can affect a whole community or it can affect just a single person. It can be something large and world-changing or it can be something small and simple. Give it some thought: what does it mean to you when I say, “do something positive for the LGBT community?” There is no one way to take action and there is no wrong way either. After all, the force that drives the Week of Action is the concept behind it. We are a diverse group of people with diverse ideas, approaches, and capabilities who are united by the common goal of creating a better world for LGBT people – what exactly you choose to do is entirely up to you.

If you’re not sure where to start, check out our list of fifty ways you could take action below and see if any of our ideas sound like something you’d like to try. You’re more than welcome to use them or modify them as you see fit:

1. Make a point to talk about LGBT issues during the Week.
2. Donate to an organization that serves the LGBT community, especially local ones, or donate to a crowdfund set up by or for an LGBT person.
3. Pick a couple of names from the “In Remembrance” list on the WoA site and do some research into their stories. Who were they? What happened to them?
4. Share resources.
5. Speak out against racism, classism, ableism, etc., especially within the LGBT community.
6. Start, run, or join an LGBT-related club, group, or organization.
7. Connect or get together with some people in a similar position as you and have the conversations you need to have.
8. Alternatively, connect or get together with some people in a similar position as you and just have fun! Even activists aren’t all about the issues all the time.
9. Talk to others about the stories of those we’ve lost to anti-LGBT violence.
10. Accept and embrace who you are – and do something to remind yourself that you’re awesome.

11. Reach out to someone and let them know you are there for them.
12. Attend a rally, protest, or vigil.
13. Challenge your own assumptions and prejudices.
14. Combat queer-on-queer hate.
15. Casually bring up an LGBT-related issue in a conversation with friends.
16. Start an LGBT-related blog, project, or craft.
17. Consider putting up a safe zone sticker or something similar where people will see it. In doing this, you send a quiet yet powerful signal to LGBT people that you are a safe person.
18. Take part in an LGBT-related movement or project like the Stories Project, the You Have a Purpose Project, the It Gets Better Project, etc. There are lots!
19. Start a conversation with someone who is ignorant or ill-informed about LGBT issues and educate them.
20. Live another day because you are intrinsically valuable and worthy.

21. Call someone out when you hear them make a heterosexist (homophobic) or cissexist (transphobic) comment.
22. Wear an LGBT-related article of clothing – this is another quiet yet powerful signal that you are a safe person.
23. Reflect on how your experiences have shaped who you are (you can write it down if you’d like.) You don’t have to show anyone – it’s just for you.
24. Be an advocate for one or more of the groups often left out of the discussions. This includes but is not limited to: trans people, bisexuals, pansexuals, gender non-conforming people, asexuals, intersex people, and two-spirit people.
25. Remind someone that you love them today because they may not be here tomorrow.
26. Think critically about how your experience as an (X) person is different than someone else who is (Y).
27. Volunteer at an existing LGBT organization or a crisis hotline.
28. If your identity is one of the letters that the mainstream LGBT community focuses a lot of attention on, step back and listen to someone who isn’t. Their experiences and needs are different but no less important than yours.
29. Contact your legislators and show them their constituents support LGBT rights.
30. Allow yourself to feel and react to the stories of injustices and atrocities committed against LGBT people.

31. Ask for help and support if you need it.
32. Attend a GSA or PFLAG meeting.
33. Cut heterosexist (homophobic) and cissexist (transphobic) language from your vocabulary.
34. If you’re a teacher or other kind of educator, work an LGBT-related lesson into the curriculum that often erases them.
35. Blast the bigots. Not everyone, myself included, believes the marginalization of LGBT people will end if we just use kind words and try to educate people. Sometimes the brutal truth has to fly. Go for it.
36. Fight to change legislation, either by removing an anti-LGBT law or implementing a pro-LGBT law.
37. Share the names of some LGBT-friendly therapists in your area; you never know who might be suffering.
38. Come out – if and only if you feel safe to.
39. Make connections with members of the LGBT community – and don’t write off people from a different generation than you!
40. Take care of yourself. Self-care is an action, too.

41. Share your own story.
42. Ask yourself: what is something one of the victims of anti-LGBT violence cared about in life? Honor the human beings they were by taking action for their cause.
43. Teach yourself about microaggressions – and stop perpetuating them.
44. Listen to someone else’s story.
45. Talk to others about LGBT people who are doing awesome and exciting things. Positive, upbeat narratives are just as necessary and important as the tragic ones!
46. Write about an issue facing the LGBT community.
47. Help amplify the voices of others if you’re not interested in speaking yourself.
48. Challenge a discriminatory practice.
49. Ask someone, “What can I do for you?” or “What do you need from me?”
50. Challenge yourself and don’t feel limited to these ideas. However you take action is good enough if it is meaningful to you. We need everyone – quiet and loud, introverted and extroverted, backstage and center stage, who take big actions and little ones – to change the world for the better for LGBT people.

We’d also like everyone who takes part to keep this in mind as you start thinking about your own action plans: self-care is an action too, a form of action that can be downright revolutionary in a world that expects us to be unbreakable pillars of strength and control 24/7. I know some people who have trouble with this event and/or time of year for what it brings up for them; if the Week of Action is too difficult for you for whatever reason, it is completely okay to pass on participating or on trying to do something outside your comfort zone.

Ultimately, the WoA is a challenge, not an obligation, and no one should sacrifice their mental health and well-being for the sake of the cause. If taking care of yourself is all you do during the Week, count that as a success and take a moment to recognize the level of badass it takes to survive each day. In the words of Mary Anne Radmacher, courage doesn’t always roar – sometimes it’s the little voice at the end of the day that says, “I will try again tomorrow.”

Author: Meg 

The Week of Action 2016

TW: Murder and anti-LGBT violence, specifically: Rebecca Wight.

Dates: May 9 – May 15, 2016

This is our official announcement for the Week of Action 2016, which is coming up in just a few short weeks. After a chaotic start to the year, we are now in FULL PREPARATION mode as we move forward into May. If you’re interested in what we have planned for this year’s event, read ahead, or check out our posts from years past under the “Week of Action” tag to the right!

Continue reading

New Year, New Theme, New Team, and More

TW: none.

It’s hard to believe it’s already April of 2016, yet here we are – and we’re more than halfway through.

I’ve been trying to write this post at various moments since January, and each time I’ve sat down to type it out, I’ve lost the words. It’s been a hard year for the Stories Project Team, and the personal crises and hardships we’ve all endured in recent months have kept our attention from the project and the website. But we are undeterred. We can only move forward from where we are, and we accept that we needed this time the past couple of months to focus on the living members of our community and ourselves.

With that said, we’re at the end of April and it’s almost May, which means our 5th annual Week of Action is right around the corner! In the upcoming two weeks, we’re going to be posting a bunch of information about what we’ll be doing, and what you can do if you choose to take the challenge with us. Though we could have tried to do something grand for the five-year anniversary, we’ll actually be doing the opposite, in the spirit of the very first WoA we ever ran: a small, low-key event for personal growth and reflection. It will run May 9 – May 15.

So much has changed since the last time I updated the blog! The new year has brought with it a new theme, new team, new opportunities, and more. We changed our URL to “the-stories-project.org” last October to reflect the shifting focus of our work, and after a lot of thought and careful consideration of our options, we ultimately decided to switch to a more modern, more mature site theme. We additionally revamped the about pages and the layout so everything is easier to locate and access. The stories we’ve archived are no longer under “About the Stories Project” – they have their own tab where you can read all of them.

The team of women working behind the scenes on these endeavors has grown from two to four. Joining Alice and myself are Taliyah, our new social media coordinator who has years of experience fighting state violence, and Maya, our new outreach coordinator whose background in queer theory makes for oodles of fascinating conversations. We introduced them on the Facebook page a bit prematurely a few months back – they will start to really make themselves known during the Week of Action this year!

If you take a look around the site, you may also notice that we’ve added a few projects, including our collaboration with an incarcerated LGBT artist named Kery who specializes in the creation of beaded jewelry and leather goods, and the Stories Project Emergency Fund, which we’ve talked about doing in various forms over the years. Our portion of the funds we receive through our collaboration with Kery will be put into the fund, which we plan to award to members of the LGBT community experiencing emergency situations and financial need as we have the resources. Our first gift in the amount of $1500, paid for by the team and our generous families and friends, was given this past January to Aurora J., a lesbian, genderfluid artist, poet, and photographer, to help her leave a situation which is becoming increasingly abusive and dangerous.

In spite of the fact that we’ve been quiet these past few months, we’ve actually had quite a few opportunities to spread the word about the projects and connect with others doing similar work! We’ve been focusing our energies on becoming more established as an organization and networking, and we definitely feel like it’s paying off. I’m amazed and humbled by all of the creative, dedicated individuals I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and connecting with over the past year through speaking engagements, LGBT film festivals, and events large and small. Because of the encouragement of a few of these people, TSP has a “gig” this June – we will have our own booth in a local Pride festival, and it will be our first. Additionally, because the LGBT film festivals have proven time and time again to be such a rich ground for genuine connection between like-minded people, I’ve signed up to be on the film selection committee for one near me this summer. I’m looking forward to being involved with this group, and I’m looking forward to the new heights we hope to take our own projects to in the near future.

The last thing of note I have to report is that, depending on our financial and work situations next summer, Alice and I are talking about taking a group of people back to Michaux State Forest and camping there. Though I said in 2014 I wasn’t sure I would ever go back, after I returned from that trip, a number of lesbian and bi women expressed that they never would have thought to do that on their own, but now they’d be interested in going too if I ever went back.

So you know what? Let’s go back, together.

Author: Meg