Telling Layla’s story

Telling Layla's story


I didn’t understand when I volunteered to help write biographies of transgender people who had been murdered in 2020 exactly what the plan was. (I’m sure that had all been explained in a meeting, but I was new to the group.)

In short, we were assigned to write a longer biography that would be online and a shorter one that would be displayed at an installation in memory of the victims. As it turns out, the coordinator had us concentrate on the long versions, and someone else cut the biographies down for the displays. (The display versions were solely celebrations of the people; the online versions contained details of how they died — this was the big difference between the two.)

What I didn’t get was why it mattered for a group of people in Tallahassee to do this when the list of the (at least) 37 people is widely distributed, on national websites and elsewhere.

Having been through the process, I get it now.

I understand why there needed to be brief display versions.

I understand why there need to be long versions.

And although I suppose 50 different individuals in 50 different towns and cities around the US may have done this exact exercise, part of the point (at least for me) was about what I needed to learn about the story of the person I honored, Layla Sanchez.

Some writer somewhere could have done what I did. Maybe there are versions out there that look remarkably similar (there’s not a lot of information available in some cases as it relates to these victims).

BUT … it was in spending time with Layla’s story, reading about her grandmother’s grief, learning about her hopes and dreams, and packaging all of the information up that I was given the …


… the sentence above was going in the direction of “I was given the opportunity and privilege of sharing her story,” but that doesn’t get at the heart of what I intend.

I will never talk to Layla’s grandmother, but in reading her account of Layla’s life, I grieved too. Stories are one of the ways grief settles in a different place in our hearts, bodies and communities.

Telling Layla's story

Layla was not given dignity in the last moments of her life; telling her story is a way to restore it.

Telling Layla's story

Welcome to this week’s Five Minute Friday. Our instructions, via creator Kate Motaung: “Write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.” (But I can’t resist spell checking, as you can imagine.) 

4 thoughts on “Telling Layla’s story

  1. So many die rejected,
    for we say that they have sinned,
    and their graves now lie neglected,
    mourned only by the wind.
    We pass by in our daily round,
    and feel Heaven’s ever-nearer,
    but part of God lies in the ground,
    and to us holds up a mirror,
    for we are born of Adam’s seed
    and sin is our own fate,
    and that is why we truly need
    to douse the flame of hate,
    for the fire that we hold
    will consume us ere we’re old.

    Paula, if there’s any way in which you can use this, please do so, no attribution needed.

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