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Why We Should Observe the Transgender Day of Remembrance

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The transgender community has long been fighting for their rights and acceptance in society. While there has been some progress made, there is still a long way to go. The transgender community faces many struggles, from discrimination and violence to lack of access to healthcare and employment. This is especially true for transgender people of color, who face even more challenges.

What is Transgender Day of Remembrance?

Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) is an annual event that honors the memory of those who have been killed as a result of transphobia. TDOR was started in 1999 by Transgender activist Gwendolyn Ann Smith, in honor of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was brutally murdered in 1998.

Every year since, TDOR events have been held around the world to remember the lives lost to anti-transgender violence and to stand in solidarity with the transgender community and gender-nonconforming people.

Transgender Day of Remembrance has been observed annually on November 20th to memorialize those who have been killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. The day also raises public awareness of hate crimes against transgender and gender non-conforming individuals and works to build solidarity within the transgender community to fight back against violence and discrimination.

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The importance of TDOR

This year, TDOR comes at a time when the transgender community is facing increased violence and discrimination and is under attack from multiple angles. In the United States, at least 32 transgender people have been killed so far in 2022, the vast majority of whom were Black and Latinx trans women. This number is likely an underestimate, as many transgender people who are killed are misgendered by police and media, and their deaths are not reported as hate crimes.

Globally, the situation is even worse, with the trans community being victim to epidemic of violence and hate. According to the Trans Murder Monitoring Report, at least 327 transgender and gender non-conforming people were killed between October 1st, 2021 and September 30th, 2022. The majority of these murders took place in Brazil, Mexico, and the United States.

However, transgender and gender non-conforming people were also reported to be killed in Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Italy, Malaysia, Pakistan, Peru, the Philippines, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe.

Furthermore, in August 2020, Hungary passed a law banning legal recognition of transgender people. This law effectively makes it impossible for transgender people in Hungary to change their legal gender, leaving them vulnerable to discrimination and violence. 

These attacks on the rights of transgender individuals are part of a larger pattern of acts of violence and discrimination against transgender and gender non-conforming folks. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, one in four transgender people in the United States has been a victim of violence, and one in eight has been murdered.

Transgender women of color are especially at risk for brutal violence and discrimination. In the United States, Black and Latinx transgender women are murdered at disproportionately high rates. In 2017, the murder rate for Black transgender women was five times higher than the rate for white transgender women. These numbers are only a snapshot of the epidemic of transphobic violence that transgender individuals face every day.

The transgender community faces many challenges, but they are also a community of strength and resilience. On Transgender Day of Remembrance, the community honors those who have been lost and stand together to fight back against the discrimination.

own identity

History of the day

It’s been nearly two decades since the first Transgender Day of Remembrance was observed. Rita Hester’s murder, and the lack of media coverage and police investigation, galvanized the transgender community and led to the creation of the Transgender Day of Remembrance.

The idea for TDOR was first conceived by Gwendolyn Ann Smith, a transgender woman who is also a columnist and graphic designer. In 1999, she created a web page in memory of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was murdered in Allston, Massachusetts. The web page listed the names of other transgender people who had been killed, and it soon became clear there was a need for an annual day to remember those who had been lost.

The first Transgender Day of Remembrance was observed on November 20, 1999, with memorials held in San Francisco and Boston. The following year, memorials were held in cities around the world, and the day has been observed annually ever since.

In the years since TDOR was first observed, the transgender community has made great strides, and many transgender lives have been protected. In 2010, the US Department of Health and Human Services released new guidelines that recognized transgender people as a protected class under anti-discrimination laws.

In 2012, the US military lifted its ban on openly transgender service members. And in 2015, the US Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. Furthermore, the US government passed the landmark legislation known as the Affordable Care Act. This act made it illegal to discriminate against transgender people in healthcare. This was a huge victory for the transgender community.

transgender man

The continuous fight for equality and respect

However, the transgender community still faces many challenges. One of the biggest challenges is access to healthcare. Many transgender people do not have health insurance, and even if they do, they often face discrimination when trying to access care. This can be especially difficult for transgender people who need transition-related care, such as hormone therapy or surgery.

Another challenge facing the transgender community is employment discrimination. Despite the progress made with the Affordable Care Act, transgender people can still be fired from their jobs simply for being transgender. This is especially true for transgender people of color, who often have a harder time finding employment.

Despite the challenges, the transgender community continues to fight for their rights. In 2018, transgender people made history by winning major victories in the US midterm elections. Two transgender women were elected to the US House of Representatives, and several more were elected to state and local offices. This was a huge step forward for the transgender community. In 2022, we saw the first transgender man elected to a U.S. state legislature.

The transgender community has come a long way, but there is still a long way to go. The challenges they face are significant, but they are not insurmountable. With continued fight, the transgender community will continue to make progress.

How can we help

The Transgender Day of Remembrance is an important day to remember those who have been killed as a result of transphobia and to raise awareness of the violence that transgender people face. Transgender Day of Remembrance provides an opportunity for us to reflect on this fatal violence, recommit ourselves to the fight for justice, and address issues that have plagued the community.

As we mourn those who have been lost, we must also remember that transphobic violence is not inevitable. It is the result of a society that continues to devalue and marginalize transgender and gender non-conforming folks.

We must work together to change this reality by educating ourselves and others about the experiences and needs of transgender and gender-diverse communities. We must also stand up to transphobia whenever and wherever it occurs and continue to address issues that have plagued the community for decades.

So, how can we help the transgender community? Here are a few ideas:

Be an ally.

If you’re not transgender yourself, you can still be a transgender advocate and ally. This means being an advocate for transgender civil rights and standing up against discriminatory state legislation.

Educate yourself and others.

Learn about the issues facing the transgender community and then share that knowledge with others. The more people who are informed, the better.

Support transgender people in accessing care.

Transgender people face many challenges when it comes to mental health. They may struggle with depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues at higher rates than the general population due to trauma and reduced support. It is important to support transgender people in accessing gender-affirming therapy if they are struggling. Talking to a gender affirming therapist can help them step into their authentic lives and navigate the obstacles that may be barriers to living their best lives.

Support transgender-owned businesses.

One way to directly support the transgender community is to patronize transgender-owned businesses. This helps to promote economic empowerment within the community.

Speak out against hate.

If you see or hear someone being hateful towards the transgender community, speak out against it. Showing that you won’t tolerate hate against trans people and gender-diverse people can make a big difference. Support organizations and policies that fight to prevent and combat anti-trans violence and discrimination.

transgender couple

Show your support in other ways.

There are lots of ways to show your support for the transgender community, even if you’re not sure how to do all of the above. You can donate to transgender-focused charities, for example, or use your social media platforms to elevate trans voices.

By coming together to remember those who have been lost, we can send a powerful message of solidarity to transgender communities around the world and work to end the cycle of violence. We can also recommit ourselves to the fight for a world in which all people are free to live their lives without fear of violence or discrimination.

There are many resources available to help us learn more about transgender issues:

  • The National Center for Transgender Equality is a national advocacy organization for transgender people. 
  • The Human Rights Campaign is an LGBTQ advocacy organization. 
  • PFLAG is an organization for parents, families, and allies of LGBTQpeople. 
  • The Trevor Project is a crisis intervention and suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ youth. 

Every year, the names of those who have been killed are read aloud at memorials, and candlelight vigils are held in their honor. For many transgender people, Transgender Day of Remembrance is a day of mourning. But it is also a day of resilience and strength, as the transgender community comes together to remember those lost and stand up against hate.