What started as a memorial for a single individual, grew to a memorial for thousands of others who faced similar fates. In 1999, Gwendolyn Ann Smith held a vigil to honor the memory of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was killed in 1998. Hester's family found her in her first-floor Boston apartment. She was stabbed over 20 times.
However, Rita's death sparked an important tradition that has become the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance. November 20 honors the lives we have lost to acts of anti-transgender violence and inspires hope for a peaceful tomorrow. However, there is still much work to do before we see a brighter future.
Since 2013, advocacy organizations like the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) started tracking transgender homicides. In 2019, they recorded 27 transgender deaths due to violence.
This year is on track to become one of the deadliest years for trans Americans. Sadly, 2020 has seen at least 36 violent transgender deaths to date.
According to HRC, this violence disproportionately affects transgender women of color.
Their studies show that "the intersections of racism, sexism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, and unchecked access to guns conspire to deprive them of employment, housing, healthcare and other necessities, barriers that make them vulnerable."
How can I participate in honoring TDOR?
This Transgender Day of Remembrance may look different than in years past. However, there are still plenty of ways to participate in honoring transgender lives.
Stream virtual vigils
The COVID-19 pandemic interfered with many of this year's social gatherings. Instead of going to in-person memorials, consider streaming a virtual vigil.
For example, advocacy groups like PFLAG invite the public to attend an online memorial to pay tribute to Transgender Day of Remembrance.
Educate yourself and others
Spread the stats and facts about violence against the trans community. Not only can this change perceptions, but it can also create platforms to discuss important issues. Information is power!
We recommend checking out the below resources and organizations to help with TDOR education:
- Anti-Violence Project
- National Center for Transgender Equality
- Sylvia Rivera Law Project
- Trans Women of Color Collective
- Transgender Law Center
Even more, you can read the names and stories of those who have been taken from us¬†this year by clicking here.¬†
Although Transgender Awareness Week is a time for celebration, TDOR is a time to remember the brave lives who have suffered. Be respectful and aid in the fight to end violence against Transgender and the LGBTQ+ community.