home GLBTQI, Human Rights, Society Why do we need Transgender Day of Remembrance? Well…

Why do we need Transgender Day of Remembrance? Well…

If you’ve been perusing my home blog and other transgender-themed blogs across the Internet recently, you may have noticed the TDOR acronym pop up, and wondered what it means.

TDOR stands for the Transgender Day of Remembrance. For the last eleven years, every November 20 we memorialize and call attention to the people we’ve lost due to anti-transgender hatred and prejudice.

The Transgender Day of Remembrance began in the wake of the November 28, 1998 murder of African-American transwoman Rita Hester of Boston, MA. Rita’s murder was the impetus for San Francisco based activist Gwen Smith to begin the Remembering Our Dead web project and organize a vigil in San Francisco on the one year anniversary of Rita’s murder.

The 1999 San Francisco vigil quickly morphed into an event that was observed on November 20 in various locations around the world. This year in addition to TDOR events taking place in numerous locales across the United States and Canada, TDOR events will take place in Australia, England, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Kenya, Malaysia, The Philippines, The Netherlands, Norway, Scotland and Sweden.

The Remembering Our Dead Web Project not only compiles the names of people from around the world who have lost their lives to anti-transgender violence, it keeps statistics as well.

There are non-transgender people on the list such as Nashville’s Willie Houston. He was murdered in 2002, because the shooter considered him gay after seeing him hold his fiancé’s purse. This resulted in a verbal parking lot altercation near the General Jackson steamboat that tragically ended in death.

Pfc. Barry Winchell is another non transgender person on the list. In the early morning hours of July 5, 1999 the Fort Campbell, KY was killed because he was dating a trans woman, Calpernia Addams. That story is told in the movie “Soldier’s Girl.”

At this year’s TDOR ceremony we’ll be adding Michael Hunt’s name. He was murdered along with his transgender girlfriend, Taysia Elzy

The core part of any TDOR service is reading the list of names of people we lost from the time after we held the previous year’s event to the current one. As that list of names is read, a candle is lit in remembrance of that person.

Sadly, according to Ethan St. Pierre – who compiles the statistics and in 1995 lost his aunt Debra Forte to anti transgender violence – we will be lighting candles for 117 people. One of the other glaring statistics that Ethan points out is that 70% of the Remembering Our Dead list is made up of trans people of color, and that pattern sadly continues with the people we are memorializing for 2009.

Some locales simply do the memorial service, while others hold several days of transgender awareness events that lead up to the day of the service

While Houston’s and Winchell’s killers were arrested, tried and convicted for their crimes, sadly that not the case for Rita Hester and many of the people on this list that we memorialize. Many of the fallen trans people that make up this list have yet to see their killers brought to justice

The Transgender Day Of Remembrance serves multiple functions. It gives trans people an opportunity to remember those we have lost since the last TDOR vigil and bond as a community. It also gives us an opportunity to shine a media spotlight on anti transgender violence. Unless there is a trans person killed in the local area, too many times the subject of anti transgender violence is ignored by the mainstream media, until, that is, a TDOR event takes place.

It’s an opportunity for our cisgender allies to do intersectional advocacy work and stand in solidarity with the trans community. We get the benefit of educating our allies and others about this issue and the myriad others that affect our community.

And most importantly, it reminds the world that we are human beings too.

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