Juneau’s LGBTQ community held a candlelight vigil Tuesday night in honor of the transgender lives claimed by violence in the past year.
The vigil was part of a Transgender Day of Remembrance event held at the Gold Town Nickelodeon. It also included a screening of a documentary about transgender young adults and speeches from members of the community. The event was organized by Southeast Alaska LGBTQ Alliance.
“Certainly the attacks of the Trump administration on the trans community is certainly on the forefront of everyone’s mind,” James Hoagland, event organizer and former SEAGLA board member, told the Capital City Weekly beforehand. “It’s hard to know if it’s signalling a change in the broader atmosphere. Our perception is it’s not. We want to signal the feeling toward trans folks is getting better and better.”
There were at least 29 deaths of transgender people as a result of violence in the U.S. in 2017, according to the Human Rights Campaign, and so far this year there have been 22.
Casey Harris, a non-binary — someone who does not exclusively identify as one gender — and co-owner of Game On, said while the number of transgender people killed may pale in comparison to the number of lives lost in car wrecks, the difference is intent; those who died in car accidents were not targeted, hunted or harassed.
“We honor the brave who refused to be crushed,” Harris said.
The names of transgender people who have been killed in the U.S. were read during a non-denominational, secular vigil.
“They asked me if I would lead the candlelight part of it,” said openly gay Methodist pastor Karen Dammann. “I’m honored. I’m going to be careful because so many people have been hurt by religion.”
She was joined in reading names of the deceased by Resurrection Lutheran Church’s Karen Perkins. Kyla Stevens, a Thunder Mountain High School student and past co-lead of the school’s Gay Straight Alliance, rang a bell during the reading.
Members of Juneau’s LGBTQ community also spoke during the event.
“I think what I’m trying to get across is transgender people are a normal part of society and can achieve great things in a supportive environment,” said Coast Guard Capt. Allison Caputo, who has logged 23 years of active duty.
Caputo shared her experience growing up as a boy who liked to be around girls, marrying a high school friend, having two kids, but cross-dressing in private and getting divorced after 20 years of marriage because she could no longer live as someone she was not.
Caputo said she contemplated suicide.
“Fortunately, I didn’t do that,” she said.
Instead, Caputo reached out to the Coast Guard’s support network, was diagnosed with gender dysphoria and transitioned in 2017.
“The Coast Guard truly is my family,” Caputo said. “When the president said trans people could no longer serve, I was disappointed and depressed.”
However, the Coast Guard has opted to allow transgender troops to continue to serve.
Caputo said she was glad SEAGLA was present in Juneau and thanked the organization for sponsoring the event, and encouraged attendees to continue to vote, use preferred pronouns and support the gender non-binary people in their lives.
Need to talk?
Trans Lifeline, a national trans-led organization’s support hotline, can be reached at (877)865-8860, from 6 a.m.-midnight Alaska time.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at (1-800)273-8255.
The Trevor Project lifeline for LGBTQ young people — ages 13-24 — can be reached at (866)488-7386.
The Crisis Text Line, a free 24/7 support for those in crisis, can be texted at 741-741.
• Contact arts and culture reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org.