The Transgender Day of Remembrance is observed annually on November 20 as a way to honor people who had been killed in anti-transgender violence. Gwendolyn Ann Smith, one of the founders of the day, has described “anti-transgender violence” as “attacks against people who are perceived as transgender — regardless of how one may personally identify.”
How did the Transgender Day of Remembrance begin?
In 2012 essay Smith wrote for Huffington Post, she said It started with a vigil in San Francisco’s Castro district in November 1999. According to GLAAD, the vigil was held a year after the murder of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who had been killed in November 1998:
Rita was a highly visible member of the transgender community in her native Boston, Mass., where she worked locally on education around transgender issues. On Saturday, Nov. 28, Rita was stabbed 20 times in her apartment. A neighbor called the police, and Rita was rushed to the hospital. She passed away from cardiac arrest only moments after being admitted.
The 1999 vigil, coordinated by Smith, was to honor Hester and all who had been lost to anti-transgender violence.
And since then?
The Transgender Day of Remembrance has grown. Smith runs a website, and as of her 2012 essay, the day was being recognized on several continents. According to the website, each Day of Remembrance honors the people who have been killed in anti-transgender violence in the previous year, from November 20th to November 19th.
Who is most affected by anti-transgender violence?
From GLAAD’s tipsheet about the Transgender Day of Remembrance:
The 2014 Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and HIV-affected Hate Violence Report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Projects shows that, of the victims murdered, 80% were people of color, 55% were transgender women, and 50% were transgender women of color. Transgender women survivors of hate violence were also more likely to experience police violence, physical violence, discrimination, harassment, sexual violence, threats, and intimidation compared to those who were not transgender women.
The data will vary by the group reporting it. Trans Respect Versus Transphobia Worldwide created The Trans Murder Monitoring project to monitor, collect, and analyze reports of homicides of across the world. That data is slightly different:
In the United States, the majority of the trans people reported murdered are trans women of color and/or Native American trans women (85%), and in France, Italy, Portugal, and Spain, which are the countries to which most trans and gender-diverse people from Africa and Central and South America migrate, 65% of the reported murder victims were migrants.
Has the mission of Transgender Day of Remembrance changed at all?
It hasn’t “changed,” per se. A page on the Transgender Day of Remembrance website explains that the day “serves several purposes”:
It raises public awareness of hate crimes against transgender people, an action that current media doesn’t perform. Day of Remembrance publicly mourns and honors the lives of our brothers and sisters who might otherwise be forgotten. Through the vigil, we express love and respect for our people in the face of national indifference and hatred. Day of Remembrance reminds non-transgender people that we are their sons, daughters, parents, friends and lovers. Day of Remembrance gives our allies a chance to step forward with us and stand in vigil, memorializing those of us who’ve died by anti-transgender violence.
What are ways that the Transgender Day of Remembrance is observed?
According to GLAAD, candlelight vigils are the most common way the day is observed, though it can also include marches, forums, speeches, movie screenings, spoken word events, and other ways to bring awareness of anti-transgender violence.
In her essay for Huffington Post, Smith explained that this is not a holiday of any sorts:
The Transgender Day of Remembrance is not an event for fundraisers and beer busts. It’s not an event we “celebrate.” It is not a quick and easy one-day way for organizations to get credit for their support of the transgender community. It’s not something to trot out on the 20th of November and forget about. We should be working every day for all of us, living and dead.
Why do we remember? We remember for Rita Hester and Chenelle Pickett. We remember for Brandon Teena, for Gwen Araujo, for Marsha P. Johnson. We remember for Deoni Jones of Baltimore, Md., killed last February. We remember for Tyrell Jackson of Florida, killed on April 4, 2012. We remember for Coko Williams, killed in Detroit on April 3. We remember for Paige Clay, killed in Chicago on April 16. We remember for Brandy Martell of Oakland, killed on April 29, 2012. We remember for Tiffany Gooden, killed in Chicago on August 14. We remember for hundreds of others killed around the world in anti-transgender murders.
This day we mourn our losses and we honor our precious dead — tomorrow and every other day, we shall continue to fight for the living.
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