November 20, 2008
Transgender Day of Remembrance
The Transgender Day of Remembrance was set aside to memorialize those who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. The event is held in November to honor Rita Hester, whose murder on November 28th, 1998 kicked off the “Remembering Our Dead” web project and a San Francisco candlelight vigil in 1999. Rita Hester’s murder — like most anti-transgender murder cases — has yet to be solved. …
The Transgender Day of Remembrance 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.
Jack at Feministe points out that “Remembrance is important and necessary, but we cannot stop at remembrance. If we want this violence against trans people to stop, we must move beyond mourning our dead and take up the fight for the rights of our living,” then goes on to list a number of ways to do so.
Some facts compiled by the Remembering Our Dead Project:
- As of November 11, 2008, 16 transpeople [the site says 30 elsewhere] have died as a result of transphobic violence. This is already double last year’s number. These numbers include not only those who were murdered for being trans, but also those whose deaths were caused by transphobia in other ways. One example is Tyra Hunter, who in 1995 “died from non-life-threatening injuries received in an auto accident because EM workers stopped treating her when they discovered she was Transgender.”
- Twelve states, along with the District of Columbia, have hate crime laws that include gender identity. Is your state one of them? If not, what can you do to change that? If so, are those laws being enforced?
- Transpeople themselves aren’t the only victims of transphobic violence. Being in a relationship with a transperson can put someone at risk, too. Indeed, even just the slightest sign of gender non-conformity can be an excuse for the transphobic to act out: “Willie Houston was not a transgender person, but faced anti-transgender and (and anti-gay) violence because he was carrying his wife’s purse, and assisting a blind male.”
Also, Little Light expresses frustration at the HRC trying to get involved in Portland’s Trans Day of Remembrance (and trying to shift the focus “to ‘Trans Awareness Day,’ something much more upbeat, much more focused on feel-good celebration of the community, something much more acceptable to upper-class, culturally-normative assimilationists you can put in the newspaper without making anyone feel threatened”):
The Day of Remembrance is ours, and it is sacred. It is the one day we set aside to honor those in our community, overwhelmingly poor trans women of color, who were killed due to bigotry and hatred. It is a single day in the year where we make certain that the names of the murdered are heard and held up, so we can all remember that these people mattered, were real, were loved, and are missed. It’s a day to gather the community together and call attention to the violence directed against us and the caring we have for each other. It came from us. It was built by us. It was never supposed to be flashy or glitzy. It is a solemn mourning for the dead, a place to hold hands, and a promise to those who violence took away from us that we who are still living will hold together, take care of each other, and push forward together into a world where that violence is only a painful memory.
Other posts worth reading: queenemily at Questioning Transphobia: How to Mourn, Cara at the Curvature: Transgender Day of Remembrance 2008, Autumn at Pam’s House Blend: Today is the Annual Transgender Day of Remembrance.
Remember. Mourn. Act. Speak out.