Across America, people are recalling members of an often-ignored minority group that is often punished by violence for simply being themselves. Transgender Remembrance Day was held for the first time on Nov. 20, 1999, to pay tribute to Rita Hester, a transgender woman murdered in what is believed to be a hate crime. Every year since on this day and now, during this week, many people have come together to light candles, shed tears, and raise their voices against violence, bigotry, and hatred.
On this day, I remember my dear friend Tacy Ranta, who was shot to death during a Baltimore crime spree in 1999 — two days after the first Transgender Remembrance Day. Whether her killing was motivated by hate or criminal mischief is a mystery to this day. When her lifeless body was found on the streets near her East Baltimore home, police initially assumed she was a woman-born woman. But recently, I learned that one of her assailants made the statement that Tacy wasn’t a woman, she was a “faggot.” The discovery made the pain of her loss — necessarily muted over the course of time — strike like new all over again.
No one deserves to be murdered for any reason. But Tacy, particularly, deserved only good things and a long, happy life.
Before she embraced her true self in the early ’90s, Tacy had been a Boy Scout leader, a teacher, and a self-made business owner. After her transition, she became a leader at Baltimore’s Metropolitan Community Church, a fearless activist for GLBT rights, and a lifeline to other transsexuals struggling to find a place for themselves in an often cruel, uncaring world. And though she is gone because of sheer madness, her legacy lives on: The transgender support group she founded continues to offer help and hope to many Baltimoreans.
Barbie Lee’s “Broken Wings” talks about a number of anti-transgender hate murders. Among the lives she commemorates is Tacy:
A beautiful young lady, she worked hard for her rights and others like her. The DMV (department of motor vehicles) was one of the places she worked to make a change. It was through Tacy Ranta’s efforts, Anne Ferro came to know more about this smallest minority. Anne Ferro was head of Maryland DMV. Tacy and two others had made a visible effort to contact Anne and explain the problems and complications associated with the way they were perceived. Unlike many others, Anne listened with an open mind. It was not an unfair request. Even through there was no precedence for it, Anne Ferro implemented a policy change in the DMV drivers license division. There was no hard reason not to and Tacy had presented a very logical and reasonable request.
Not a logical request according to others. It was blasphemous, a crime against all other people. It never should have been allowed. All this screaming and shouting from a few who weren’t hurt, affected, or changed in any way shape or form from this minor change in policy. Yet it meant so much in physical and psychological help to the handful who could now change their drivers license.
“Faggot!” He screamed as he pulled the trigger. She fell to the pavement, blood pouring from the hole in her chest. Her killer and his friends were on a crime spree that night. Tacy Ranta was the only victim they shot. She was singled out among all the people the young criminals robbed and mugged that night. It wasn’t because she resisted. It wasn’t because she didn’t have something of value to steal. Her sole crime? She was a member of an elite group. A member of the smallest minority died on the street that night, a victim of hate.
Tacy Ranta died before she could realize the rewards of one of her goals, the generosity and kindness of Anne Ferro’s change in DMV policy. Tacy Ranta would never have her real gender printed on her drivers license.
Re-reading Lee’s words makes that night feel as if it is happening all over again. I miss her so much.
More than anything, I miss Tacy’s strength, her kindness, and her good humor. She could always make me smile and her hugs filled me with love and warmth. How I loved singing with her in our church choir — she had a booming bass voice that was always at odds with her grace and femininity. And her indefatigable spirit — how I miss it in these days of darkness.
Tacy Ranta was a bright light, a courageous, powerful force for good, a treasured friend to many people, and a beautiful woman, inside and out. She was — she is — an inspiration. Tacy was no “faggot”; she was a lady. That anyone could hate her is just unfathomable.
No doubt many people are feeling the same thing about a lost loved one on this Day of Remembrance. Perhaps you are too. Light a candle. Join the fight to stop the hate and to raise awareness of anti-trans hate crimes. And never forget the ones we have lost, the ones so horribly taken from us. Lord knows I will never forget Tacy.