By: Taylore Grunert
On Tuesday, November 27th, the Rainbow Center acknowledged Transgender Day of Remembrance. We created a memorializing wreathe (which is still up and available for folks to add to), read out names of everyone who had been murdered in the past year due to anti-transgender violence, and had a discussion afterwards about what we could all do to tackle the issue of violence against the trans community. What follows is a modified version of the speech that was given at this event.
Trans Day of Remembrance was initiated in 1999 by Gwendolyn Ann Smith to memorialize the murder of Rita Hester, a trans woman, in 1998. Since then, it has been a time for the trans community and our allies to demonstrate support for everyone affected by anti-transgender violence, both living and dead. Despite gains made by the LGBTQIA+ community as a whole over recent years, TDOR is still vitally important to observe. Statistics tell us that, since 2010, trans murders have been on the rise. For young black trans women aged 15-34, the chances of being murdered are 1 in 2,600, compared to 1 in 12,000 for all other young adults. But it is important to remember that hate crimes which lead to death are only one type of violence we experience. Rates of non-fatal hate crimes, sexual assault, domestic violence, and suicide are all disproportionately high within the trans community as compared to the rest of the population.
Trans Day of Remembrance, then, is a time of action for our community. In this current political climate, it is important now more than ever for us to come together in solidarity. Love can, and will, triumph over hate. We must believe this. But it is up to us to send this message; no one can do it for us. By being here tonight, we are making a difference. By being visible, here and now, by speaking out against anti-transgender violence tonight, we can begin to create a world full of love and acceptance that we all so desperately need. We can begin to make a change.
The anger, grief, sadness, and pain we feel today is valid. And it is important. It unites us, and it motivates us to fight for a better future. We must recognize these emotions, and we must allow ourselves to feel them now if we are ever to heal, and if we are ever to help anyone else to heal. I know that I’m talking about a lot of responsibility tonight and it might seem daunting or overwhelming or too much; but we do not carry this burden alone. It isn’t fair that we must do it, but we have one another, and together we can do it. We must remember this.
For all those in doubt, I want to say this, and I need to say this: you matter, and you are loved. Your identity is valid, and it is important and deserving of respect. Trans identities are valid, and they are deserving of respect. You are worthy of dignity and respect. Love is the most radical form of resistance there is. We must believe that.
The names of trans people who have lost their lives to anti-transgender violence and hatred over the past year were then read. Their names, dates of death, places of death, and the violent means by which the person was murdered were read. This is not done to scare us, but to bring attention to the fact that these people’s violent demise was due, first and foremost, to their identity–or even simply their perceived identity–as a trans person.
This list, though depressingly full, is likely not complete. Murders will go unreported as trans homicides are often reported with the victim’s incorrect name and pronouns. No government agency currently tracks the murders of trans people. Even in death, trans people are not respected, and the violence continues. And this is a global trend. We will never truly know the numbers of people killed for the crime of being themselves. So, we gather here to remember those known, but also those unknown. In short, it is up to us to remember these people, because their killers, law enforcement, and the media will seek to erase their existence.
A complete list of names can be found here: https://tdor.info/. It is compiled each year by Smith. I also want to add a final acknowledgement, for all of the names of people who we do not know and may never know, but mattered and suffered just the same.
I want to end with these words from Gwendolyn Ann Smith: “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.”