by Alexander Saint Franqui
When the Human Rights Campaign released their report “Fatal Violence Against the Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Community in 2020,” I solemnly scrolled through the list, reading the names of people I’d never get to meet. Three entries caught my eye with the word “Ohio.” In an Op-Ed from The Cleveland Scene, Eliana Turan from the LGBT Center of Greater Cleveland says “Cleveland is an epicenter for the transgender murder crisis.” She continues, “Following a careful analysis of the In Memoriam site, Cleveland has more known references of transphobic killing than any other city in the U.S. since record keeping began, followed by seven in Philadelphia, and six in both Baltimore and Dallas.”
After living in Ohio for a little over two years, the data did not surprise me.
I thought about my queer and trans friends, how we’ve shared stories of situations that turned us into statistics: men yelling slurs from pick-up trucks, someone watching too closely in the bathroom, rideshare drivers who kept checking the rearview mirror. Often, we found ourselves quiet after sharing because we knew how closely our stories followed deadly patterns. But those weren’t the only stories we shared. We talked about coffee shop baristas that complimented our pride pins, the best ways to dye hair in a dorm, and debated whether or not cuffing the bottom of our jeans is part of queer culture (we decided yes). When I first moved to Ohio, I knew the statistics. What I didn’t know was that I would feel a stronger sense of belonging with my queer and trans community in Ohio than anywhere else.
There is power in sharing our stories because our stories make a difference. On Day of Silence, LGBTQ2 students and allies around the country and the world take a vow of silence on this day to protest the bullying and discrimination of LGBTQ2 people in schools and draw attention to the voices we lose when LGBTQ2 individuals are forced to silence ourselves. At the end of the day, participants Break the Silence by attending various rallies and events to share their stories.
“Breaking the Silence: Queer Self, Life, and Love in Northeast Ohio” was inspired by Day of Silence and telling stories with my friends. There were always stories of struggle, but more often—and more plentiful—were stories we carried about acceptance. When we are able to hear and read the breadth of experiences from queer people we see that our voices are wanted, we are able to envision futures that include us. The anthology “Breaking the Silence: Queer Self, Life, and Love in Northeast Ohio” highlights the wealth of perspectives in the queer community of Northeast Ohio. From pain, to fear, to pleasure, to God, “Breaking the Silence” resists the temptation to reduce our community to a single narrative because there isn’t one. We struggle, but we also follow our passions, we find ourselves, we live, we love, we do it all in Northeast Ohio. We are here. And we are breaking the silence.
Header image: "Untitled (teapot, mid-February)" by Imani Badillo