Friends and family of Gaurav Gopalan as well as politicians and LGBT community activists gathered in Dupont Circle Sunday night for a candlelight vigil in memory of Gopalan, who was killed in Columbia Heights earlier this month. Shiva Subbaraman shares her memories and pays tribute to Gaurav.
It was a day much like any other. I went home exhausted late at night last Monday, and I saw a link from the Washington Blade. An unidentified person had been found on the corner of 11th & Fairmont. Yet another transwoman was found dead; she was of Middle Eastern or of Latino descent. They were asking the community for help in identifying. And there was the haunting cut out of a face. In a body bag. I looked. I looked away. I looked again. I had this sick sense that I knew this person. I scanned my memory bank for all middle eastern/latino transwomen I might know; and turned up a blank. I went to sleep.
Tues morning—the face kept smiling back at me. You know me she said. In another few hours I knew. For sure. Without a trace of doubt.
They were wrong on all counts: she did not identify as a transwoman (although she would say that does not matter); she was not Middle Eastern or Latino (although that too would not matter to her). What matters is that this was someone. No one is unknown. And they were found dead. Yet another victim to the violence we live with. This time it was Gaurav.
What can I say about Gaurav?–a vivid raconteur; an incisive analytical engineer; a gargantuan dreamer. Gaurav was an actor, a lover, a brother, an engineer, a son, a friend, a poet—who belonged to so many different communities. Gaurav.
A liver of life.
That so many of us are gathered here today—across the spectrum—is testimony to who Gaurav was.
Our lives are about silences. The silence of knowing and of not-knowing. Of acceptance and of denial. The silences of our families and communities about all of who we are. And there are the silences within us—we are both silent and silenced by fear and by love.
We must go where the silences are.
Our gathering here to remember you, Gaurav, demonstrates to all of us that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people — are NOT singular, single, alone, disconnected islands of people. We are part of families and we are families; we have and we are mothers, fathers, partners, spouses, uncles, aunts, siblings, grandparents, lovers, cousins and second cousins, and friends, and ancestors. We are part of the fabric of our world. So if we are counted with all of our families and friends, we are not 5% or 7% or 10% of our world. We are more. And we need to be counted differently. You demonstrate to us that our world is larger. You dreamed of a larger world.
Thank you for the gift of your presence.
There’s a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, ‘tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come. The readiness is all….
Gaurav did not die. He was taken from us not by accident or illness. He was taken from us through a mindless act of violence. Therein resides a universe of difference.
Gaurav, we were not ready for you to depart. But in your departure, we are ready to come together. To grieve. To remember. To organize. To say that we will not rest until there will be no need for readiness at all.
Good night, sweet prince. Good night.
Gaysi reader Anita Balan was present at the vigil and was kind enough to share some pictures. (Please click to enlarge. If you use these pictures, please credit Anita Balan)
Anita also got a chance to talk to some of the community members when she was there. We will be posting her notes shortly. Thanks Anita!