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‘How Do You Combat Hate?’: Boulder County Wraps Up Trans Awareness Week

November 24, 2018

Boulder County District Attorney Michael Dougherty speaks at the Trans Day of Remembrance event Tuesday at the courthouse.

Ravyn Wayne said helping to organize this week’s Trans Day of Remembrance for fellow members of the transgender community who were killed this year was akin to planning a funeral for a family member.

But Wayne said it’s necessary to make sure those victims are not forgotten.

“It’s important to spread awareness just to demonstrate we’re not different than you,” Wayne said. “We all want the same things, to be left alone to live our lives in a little bit of peace and happiness.”

Members of the community gathered at the Boulder County Courthouse Tuesday night to remember the 22 transgender people who have been killed this year in the United States.

In addition to the day of remembrance, the Boulder County Board of Commissioners issued a declaration making the entire week Transgender Awareness Week.

“It was an entire week of making people aware of transgender folks’ issues and that transgender folks are their neighbors and colleagues, and trying to build some understanding around identity and experience and the discrimination some folks face for simply being who they are” said Mardi Moore, executive director of Out Boulder County.

Moore, along with the county commissioners, Boulder Mayor Suzanne Jones and Boulder County District Attorney Michael Dougherty spoke to the crowd on Tuesday night on Pearl Street. After that, the group walked to First United Methodist Church for a ceremony in which the 22 names were read.

“It was a solemn and sad day, and a day most people dread,” Moore said. “But it’s to honor the lives of those who were murdered simply for being themselves, its always a beautifully painful event, and it was again this year.”

For Dougherty as a prosecutor, the event is about building a relationship with the trans community.

“I worry about the number of unreported hate crimes in this county,” Dougherty said. “The most important area for me is building trust between these communities and law enforcement and the DA’s office, so people know they can come forward and report hate crimes.”

Dougherty earlier this year started a hate crime initiative that included a bias hotline specifically for people to report those incidents. Dougherty said the line has been getting calls since it debuted, allowing law enforcement to devote resources to protecting vulnerable groups.

“We need to protect the community to make sure we are not having folks victimized by violence,” Dougherty said.

But Wayne said it isn’t just about reacting to violence and getting justice for victims. Weeks like Trans Awareness week are about preventing that violence in the first place.

“How do you combat hate?” Wayne asked. “Whether you are transgender, or a person of color, or an immigrant, I think when the rhetoric gives way to dehumanizing people, that’s when you open the door to violence. When you stop recognizing a person is just as human as you are, when you ‘other’ somebody, that opens the door to fear and hate, and fear and hate lead to violence.”

Wayne knows the people who dehumanize transgender people won’t show up to their community events. But he is hoping that those who do attend will leave with a more open mind, and open the minds of people they know, and change the culture one person at a time.

“We’re hoping that we can educate them enough that when they hear inklings of fear and hate from the people that they are connected to, that they have an opportunity to counter that fear and hate with factual information and help keep us in that frame of humanity,” Wayne said.

“It’s trying to combat negative rhetoric with positive language, with humanizing language. We are a part of your community, and we’re not going anywhere. If you would just keep your heart open, you might understand more often than not you find you have a lot of shared experiences.”

Mitchell Byars: 303-473-1329, byarsm@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/mitchellbyars

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