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On one of the most difficult days of the year, don’t forget to look out for yourself.
Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance, honoring the trans men, women, and nonbinary people around the world who have died due to transphobic violence. Created nearly 20 years ago, TDOR began in memorial for Rita Hester, a transgender woman from Massachusetts who was murdered in 1998. Awareness for the day has grown over the years, and in 2018, TDOR has an incredibly visible presence on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms.
TDOR can be a difficult and triggering day, particularly if you or another trans person in your life has been targeted by transphobic violence. If you’re struggling to get through it, or simply need a way to stay grounded, here are seven ways to encourage self-love and take care of yourself.
1) Check on a friend
It can be easy to isolate ourselves when we’re in pain, but on days like this, emotional solidarity is vital. Being able to commiserate with those who understand and feel similar is immensely helpful. It’s important to not expect emotional labor from others, which is why it’s good to always ask how your friend is doing, both to check in on them and to see if they want to talk.
If they’re someone you’re comfortable with, it can be deeply affirming to share what you’re going through and let them do the same. The conversation doesn’t have to be deep; even if you just talk about the trash TV you’re both watching to take your mind off things, you can feel less alone.
2) Go to a protest or vigil
Going to events for Trans Day of Remembrance isn’t possible for everyone for a variety of reasons, such as distance, personal safety, or illness. It also isn’t what is emotionally best for everyone, and no one should make anyone feel bad for choosing to stay home. However, being involved in a community event can be emotionally powerful. You can find out here where one is happening near you.
Gathering to grieve together for a vigil can be a deeply healing and cathartic. Coming together as a group to demand change, on the other hand, can rebuild your strength after a day of grieving. At either event, there will be a community of trans people who are there to offer support. You might even make some friends, or meet other trans folks who live locally and with whom you can continue a support network beyond this day.
3) Watch a documentary on trans rights
Trans Day of Remembrance is a somber holiday. It’s also one where we should look to the past and think about the trans folks that came before us. Many worked tirelessly for our rights, knowing they may not live to see the fruits of their labor come to fruition. Others tragically died abruptly and unexpectedly.
Today is the day where trans people must remember their past, and watching a documentary on trans rights can be one of the best ways to do so. Jennie Livingston’s Paris Is Burning is a breathtaking look at New York City’s trans community in the ‘80s, including the voguing world where queer people came together across walks of life. Then there’s Pay It No Mind: The Life and Times of Marsha P. Johnson from Michael Kasino, which focuses extensively on Johnson and explores her impact on the trans community to this day. Meanwhile, Timothy Greenfield-Sanders’ The Trans List provides a striking look at some of the most influential trans leaders of our time, paving a way for the future we fight for every day.
4) Read trans writers’ books and stories
There’s nothing more affirming than reading a book written by someone who understands what it’s like to be you. On days like today, consider indulging in novels, webcomics, and stories written by trans artists. Imogen Binnie’s seminal work of trans literature Nevada is available to read for free over on GitHub, while the 300-page trans comics anthology We’re Still Here provides a wide range of stories by and for trans people across genres and gender identities.
In the webcomics world, Valerie Halla’s Goodbye to Halos is an action-adventure fantasy series focused on a queer trans girl and her queer friends, while Sfé R. Monster’s Eth’s Skin features various non-binary characters and queer relationships in a fantastical rendition of British Columbia. Meanwhile, for something nonfictional, Trans Bodies, Trans Selves provides a fantastic look at the social and medical realities trans people experience in the world, giving both an informative and healing way to think about trans bodies.
5) Listen to trans music
One of the best ways to wrap yourself in art is to blast some music. There are well-known trans musicians and bands like punk band Against Me! and art pop singer Anonhi, but there are many more independent trans artists whose work can uplift you and carry you through the day.
“Trans Day of Revenge” by G.L.O.S.S. is a raw and powerful cry for justice. It feels so right, it’s hard to believe it came out in 2016 and hasn’t always been with us as a trans punk anthem. “Splendor Dysphoria” by SuperKnova shows off a melancholy, laid back electropop sound that’s perfect for listening to in a bubble bath. “Bracelet of Teeth” by Cassette Spence perfectly captures that bittersweet indie rock feeling of something dear being long gone. It’s also just lo-fi enough to please people who like lo-fi, without putting off people who don’t.
“I Need A Bag” by Quay Dash has a sexy, understated beat, and sets a perfect tone for chilling with friends and trash-talking transphobes. Meanwhile, “Thank You” by Carolina Brown is post-rock ballad is a slow build of emotion and music, moving both the narrator and the listener from fear to radical self-love. In the beginning, Brown quietly sings, “I was so scared.” By the end, they yell at the top of their lungs, “I’m stronger. I’m beautiful. Can you see? It’s magical.” It’s impossible not to sing along.
6) Make art
One of the safest ways to process complicated feelings is to make art. There are countless mediums you can work in. Even if you don’t have any craft or art materials in your home, you can still write some low-stakes poetry, or jot down what you’ve gone throughout the day. You can also get pretty far with a pencil and paper, or some sharpies and a plain white shirt, or a magazine, scissors, and glue. Even if you don’t have any of those, you can start making a text adventure on your computer.
What you make doesn’t have to fit any expectation of what art is, and you don’t have to show it to anyone. You can even burn it when you’re done if that makes you feel better. But if you make something that feels right, you might be surprised to find that it makes other people feel right too. If you need inspiration, look no further than the literature, documentaries, and music presented above.
7) Be kind to yourself
Today is a difficult and painful day, one that can quickly become emotionally tiring on social media. More than ever, it’s important to accept your feelings and be kind to yourself. If you feel sad and have to cry, let your tears flow. If you’re furious, let yourself be angry. Trans Day of Remembrance is a difficult and painful holiday, and whatever you feel today is valid. Accept yourself as you are, just as you would any other day.
Remember to take your medication, drink water, eat three meals, and get some rest. Meditation and mindfulness exercises may help you cope with your feelings, too. And hey, if you need to spend today by calling out sick, laying in bed, and binging She-Ra on Netflix, then go ahead and do just that. There’s nothing wrong with taking it easy. In fact, it may be what you need more than ever.
Ana Valens is an LGBTQ reporter and essayist for the Daily Dot. Her work has previously appeared in Bitch, the Establishment, Vice's Waypoint, Rolling Stone's Glixel, and the Toast. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.