Friday, 20 November 2015

Transgender Memorial

To mark today’s Transgender Day of Remembrance I’d like to highlight the UK’s only memorial to victims of transphobia. It is situated in Sackville Gardens in Manchester, the same park which has a statue of gay mathematician Alan Turing and the UK’s memorial to HIV/AIDS sufferers.

Next year I’ll give a more in-depth look at Sackville Gardens and its lgbt associations. Today we’ll concentrate on the transgender memorial.

The memorial and its little garden was created to provide a focus for events on this day of remembrance. In previous years it was marked by a gathering around the Beacon of Hope, the HIV/AIDS memorial. The obvious need for a specific memorial for the transgender community was desired from the start. It wasn’t until 2013 that it began to become a reality.

The Transgender Remembrance Memorial Project (whose Facebook page is here) was formed from members of several different interested community groups – the transgender community itself, the Friends of Sackville Gardens, and the lgbt community in Manchester and the UK.

Funds were duly raised and the design and location for the memorial was chosen. The location was near the Beacon of Hope. In contrast to the Beacon being made of metal the transgender memorial was made on site of natural materials, an old sycamore tree in the gardens.

The sculptor-carver of the memorial was Shane Green, an established tree carver with several decades of experience, and whose major work to date was a series of 26 tree carvings of athletes made over a 26-day period at the London 2012 Olympic Games. You can see him at work on the transgender memorial in this video.
The main decorative element in the sculpture is the butterfly. Several butterflies are carved and represent the change from one state of existence to another – from caterpillar to butterfly, from one gender to another. In Hispanic slang the word “mariposa” (butterfly) is used in the names of many lgbt organisations.

The rest of the memorial space was created by Tony Cooper, Angela Moonchild, Dawn Pomfret, Darren Knight, Linda Leaa Sardi, Jennifer Johansson, Jenny-Anne Bishop, Karen Richards and Astrid Walker, many of them members of the local trans community and Friends of Sackville Gardens.

The memorial was unveiled in August 2013. Sadly, the transphobia that lurks in the corners of society and leaps out to inflict its cowardly anger when no-one is looking made its presence felt shortly after the unveiling. Several days later it was vandalised and damaged. Naturally this caused a great deal of distress and anger in the local area.

The vandalism highlighted a concern that had been raised for a long time at Sackville gardens, the need for adequate lighting at night-time. There had been some robberies and attacks in the gardens for several years, and the local Neighbourhood Policing Team secured funding from the neighbouring Manchester College and the Lesbian and Gay Foundation to provide better lighting. The Policing Team also secured funds to help repair and restore the memorial area.

The memorial was finally restored in March 2014 and provided a focus for gatherings during Manchester’s annual Sparkle transgender weekend festival that July.

Today it will again be the focus for a large gathering as we remember the many members of the transgender community who still suffer and have suffered because of their gender.

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