Today marks the 19th International Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day to memorialize those who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. Even as our thoughts today turn to the transgender community, their parents, children, and friends, may they also turn towards what we can do to help end the violence.
The Transgender Day of Remembrance was founded by Gwendolyn Ann Smith to honor Rita Hester, murdered on November 28th, 1998 in Allston, Massachusetts. Transgriot has a good profile of Hester and her legacy. Morgan Collado’s 2014 piece at Autostraddle, “Remembering Us When We’re Gone, Ignoring Us While We’re Here: Trans Women Deserve More,” is also a must-read. If nothing else, though, view the list of the transgender people murdered in 2017 (to date) around the world, and realize how much more work we all have to do to spread understanding and acceptance. Look also at the new report from HRC and the Trans People of Color Coalition, which has details of the 25 trans people murdered in the U.S. this year—the most ever reported, and probably under-reported. It notes, “Eighty-four percent of them were people of color, and 80 percent were women. More than three in four were under the age of 35.” Two were only 17.
Realize how much race and class play into society’s views of trans women of color, who make up the majority of the victims, and how racial and economic justice must go hand in hand with LGBTQ equality. (See the latest U.S. Transgender Survey for statistics—but realize that ultimately we are not talking about numbers, but about people.)
The TDOR site reminds us, “Although not every person represented during the Day of Remembrance self-identified as transgender—that is, as a transsexual, crossdresser, or otherwise gender-variant—each was a victim of violence based on bias against transgender people.”
HRC observes, too:
Since the election of Donald Trump and Mike Pence, there has been a notable increase in the vitriol and anti-transgender rhetoric—from the top levels of government down through the rest of American society. Seventy percent of respondents to HRC’s post-2016 election youth survey reported witnessing bullying and harassment during or since the 2016 election, and almost half of LGBTQ youth said they have taken steps to hide who they are since the election. FBI data released earlier this week recorded an overall increase in hate crimes in 2016, including a rise in bias-motivated violence based on gender identity and sexual orientation.
Whether you attend a local observance or not, today is a good day to reflect on what we each can do to end the violence, starting with our own actions towards a more inclusive and welcoming society, e.g., using someone’s preferred pronouns and name, speaking out when we hear anti-trans remarks, and educating our children about what it means to be transgender or gender nonconforming. We can celebrate and support the lives of trans people and listen to their stories. We can urge lawmakers to pass trans-inclusive anti-discrimination legislation, to reject “bathroom bills” that demean and ignore trans people’s gender identities, and to uphold trans people’s right to serve in our military.
May the lives of those lost not be forgotten. May they inspire us to continue the work.