For the past 12 years, November 20th has marked TDOR, the International Transgender Day of Remembrance. As a cisgender person, I am not the one you should be listening to on this day. But as a cis person, it is my obligation and my honor to recognize this day and help hold the space for trans persons the world over. Please read each of these posts, as you are able to and as is safe for you to do so.
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.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.
This means that, this year, there are almost 180 trans people to be included in the list of names to be remembered, mourned and honoured at the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance tomorrow (20th November).
“The TDOR 2010 update has revealed a total of 179 cases of reported killings of trans people from November 20th 2009 to November 19h 2010. The update shows reports of murdered or killed trans people in 19 countries in the last year, with the majority from Brazil (91), Guatemala (15), Mexico (14), and the USA (14)”.
As someone who was around and part of the local and national trans leadership when the TDOR started in 1999, as time inexorably marches on I have seen eleven previous TDOR’s come and go. I have that intimate understanding of why we have them and militantly resist the calls from some transpeople to change the focus from a memorial ceremony to a happy-happy joy-joy event because it’s in their words ‘morbid and depressing’
70% of the transpeople we memorialize are people of color. I don’t want people forgetting that salient point either as we read this year’s list of names. Until anti-trans violence is reduced to nothing and the people who perpetrate it get properly punished for doing so, there will continue to be a need for the ‘morbid and depressing’ TDOR.
Around the world today, there are many vigils and memorials taking place – if there is one near you, and you can make it, please go along. Spare a few moments to remember those we have lost, to pay your respects – and to remind yourself and cis society at large that trans people are somebody’s children, somebody’s parents, somebody’s friends, somebody’s neighbours, somebody’s partners, somebody’s lovers.
More than anything else, today and every day, please remember that trans people too are part of the human race – and we’re as entitled to life as any other member of humanity.
Most of the dead are women. Most of them are nonwhite. This is not a coincidence; it is a vital reminder that we continue to allow some persons to be more valued than others because of their gender, the color of their skin, and whether their true gender matches that assigned to them at birth.
Every one of the people murdered because of anti-transgender bigotry matters. Each one of them deserves to be remembered and honored — even if we don’t know their names. Too, we are called to bring to mind the ones whose lives and deaths were so held as meaningless to their society that their murders were not reported and did not make this year’s list of the dead.
Today, I remember and memorialize the dead. Tomorrow, I will do what I can to make there not be need for a list next year, and I ask you to join me. If it seems too large a task for you, do something small. But do something. Because this must not continue.