TW: death, loss, anti-gay violence specifically: Rebecca Wight.
Today officially marked the start of the Week of Action 2013, though I took an early start yesterday afternoon when I posted my story. Already I can tell that the Week of Action 2013 has a much different feel to it than the one last year did. It seems much calmer; I feel much less stressed as well as much less upset, which tells me I really did overexert my energies in 2012. Focusing nonstop on 105 awful deaths was utterly crushing last year, so much so that I almost couldn’t finish the Week, so I am making certain this year that I don’t burn myself out. Taking a moment to stop, breathe, observe and reflect has been immensely beneficial today. I have beyond succeeded in making the Week of Action 2013 a larger event – in the past two days alone, I have both broken my record for most views in a single day and the one for most views on an individual post. I feel the collective (metaphorical) energy and spirit of the people memorialized here, but it is not an electric feeling this time around. I feel secure and strong in what I’m doing and why and there is a profound calmness to the event.
The way in which I wanted to take action this year was to finally come forward with my own story of anti-gay violence. I accomplished this yesterday, sent it out to a number of people, and have been watching the view count climb and taking in the outpouring of support I’ve received ever since. Had I known that I would receive such a wave of support and encouragement for coming forward with my story, I would have done it much sooner than I did. I was not expecting that, not at all. Prior to this, I thought I had no community and was going to have to heal myself entirely on my own. I didn’t realize just how much I was surrounded by the best kind of people, people who would have helped me to heal from the beginning had I been willing to share. I wish I had the words to express to every one of you who responded to me just how much I appreciate your words and how much they mean to me. I was extremely distressed about going through with this, but after I did it, I was confident I’d made the right decision and all the stress melted away. I won’t pretend that I didn’t cry when reading some of your messages. I won’t pretend I’m not crying now, as I write the post that wraps up the day. You know, I realized two things today: I never had to go through this alone, and I am indebted to Rebecca Wight in ways I will never be able to repay her. For as much as that story frightened me and for as much as I’ve wondered why it affected me as much as it did – had I never heard of her, I don’t think I would be alive.
Today’s theme was red, which means life, and there were fifteen people who I thought best fit this color. For the Week of Action 2013, I chose to alter the format of the tributes, as trying to tell their entire story proved extremely draining in 2012. Now that I have the Stories Project for that purpose, I have elected to look at each individual and select one thing the world lost when it lost that person, the thing about them that I feel I have lost personally with their absence. Memorialized today are, in no particular order: Andrew Anthos, Gwen Araujo, Bill Clayton, Amancio Corrales, Ukea Davis, Steen Fenrich, Ncumisa Mzamelo, Sanesha Stewart, Cathy Thomas, Kyra Cordova, Lorena Escalera, Rafael Morelos, Brian Williamson, Sakia Gunn, and Fred Martinez Jr.
When the world lost Sakia Gunn, we lost her courage and bravery. When I was attacked at fifteen years old, my instinct was to panic and flee. When Sakia was attacked at fifteen years old, her instinct was to hold her ground and defend her friends.
When the world lost Fred Martinez Jr., we lost a person who would have proved an invaluable role model to the LGBT youth of the future, myself included. Had I had the chance to know Fred in life, I don’t think I’d have had nearly as much trouble as I did when it came to accepting myself.
When the world lost Andrew Anthos, we lost his humility and focus on what was important. He did not want the limelight or recognition for his dreams and ideas. He only wished to spread the message of what his dreams and ideas represented.
When the world lost Gwen Araujo, we lost a person who at her core only wanted to be accepted and loved. She believed love was the key to acceptance, and that she would be accepted more readily as a trans woman if someone fell in love with who she was first.
When the world lost Bill Clayton, we lost his ambition and dreams. He was always in the middle of twenty different projects and occasionally decided they took priority over his grades, much as I do with the projects here.
When the world lost Amancio Corrales, we lost his bright and creative spirit. He had no issue with who he was and he enjoyed playing up his dramatic, artistic side, having fun with an identity that doesn’t always have to be so serious.
When the world lost Ukea Davis, we lost the confidence and contentment that seems to radiate from her portrait. A young woman who was only beginning to sort out the life she wanted to lead, but would have undoubtedly lived a fulfilling one.
When the world lost Steen Fenrich, we lost his charisma. I don’t know much about who he was as a person, but it’s clear he was a popular, outgoing individual whose photograph seems to confirm this.
When the world lost Ncumisa Mzamelo, we lost a woman who would have gone on to lead the way for LGBT rights in Kwazulu Natal. She is most remembered for her contributions in trying to better the community in which she lived.
When the world lost Sanesha Stewart, we lost someone who might have raised hell and changed the world over the same headlines that described her in death, sparing other trans women from such disrespectful treatment.
When the world lost Cathy Thomas, we lost her positivity, her care for others, her thoughtfulness, her brilliance – and all of the amazing things she would have done with her life. If she were around, I feel she would be changing our lives.
When the world lost Kyra Cordova, we lost her energy and enthusiasm – the kind of activist I only wish I could be. Kyra was exactly the kind of person who would do things just for the principle of them and expect nothing in return.
When the world lost Lorena Escalera, we lost a role model whose success inspired many, whose pride in herself and who she was directly influenced others to feel secure in who they were.
When the world lost Rafael Morelos, we lost his open nature and willingness to express himself even in the face of opposition and bullying.
When the world lost Brian Williamson, we lost a person who cared deeply about the members of his community, going so far as to personally house and look after gay people in Jamaica.