I spend lots of time thinking about names. We’re taught that names are more than just something you call someone– they connect us to our ancestors, they’re windows to our souls. For lots of people, that means that whoever names you when you’re young takes on the enormous responsibility of connecting you and shaping how others engage with you. So what happens when, as a fully conscious and grown person, you realize the name that you were given doesn’t send the message you want people to receive about you? For me, it meant taking on that enormous responsibility. It meant learning, in more profound a way than I ever could have imagined, what it means to have and say a name that is wholly me.
Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day we read names. It’s a day for us to remember those who died because of anti-transgender violence. In many communities, this day is memorialized by reading the names of those who have been killed this year. Every name, some of them carefully chosen in adulthood, is a window into someone’s soul. I imagine how that name resonated for the person who lived with it. Each name connects me to indescribable bravery, to unfulfilled potential, to my transgender siblings who fought and are fighting so hard every single day to live our truth.
This past Thursday, Lab/Shul’s Trans* & GNC Meetup group got together to see the New Museum’s exhibit “Trigger: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon.” We had a great time checking out the exhibit and getting to know one another. We had thoughtful conversation about what this group can offer to its members and the wider Lab/Shul community. On the way home, one of the attendees said they were excited to talk more about names. As we talked, I thought ahead to today. I thought about how names are so important for Jews, and how names are so important for people who are transgender or gender non-conforming. We struggle with names, we celebrate with names, and today, names are a connection to lives gone too soon because of violence.
Today, I hope each of us is able to honor our trans* and Gender Non-Conforming family who lost their lives living their truths. Today, I hope each of us is able to learn from their bravery and honor our own truths.
If you or a loved one is trans* or gnc and looking for community,
please email me at [email protected].
– Sam Hipschman
Lab/Shul community co-creator