Honoring lives lost to transphobic violence with Transgender Day of Remembrance

The Rainbow Center held a ceremony for Transgender Day of Remembrance to honor the lives lost due to transphobic violence. Photo courtesy of the Rainbow Center.

The Rainbow Center held a somber ceremony in observance of Transgender Day of Remembrance on Nov. 20, via Zoom, to recognize victims of transphobic violence and work toward a future free from tragedies brought on by hate. This year, at least 34 transgender people in the United States have lost their lives to such crimes. 

The ceremony began with an explanation of the importance of the event, followed by a reading of the names of the 34 victims. After the names were read, all attendees participated in a moment of silence, honoring those impacted by transphobic hate crimes.  

Transgender Day of Remembrance serves not only to mourn the losses of trans lives, but to call attention to the violence the community faces, with the intent to bring about change. On this day, many organizations acknowledge each trans person known to have died as a result of violent attacks, ensuring they are not seen merely as another statistic.  

Observance of this day began as a response to the murder of Rita Hester, a Black transgender woman and advocate for LGBTQ+ rights. To this day, her murder has not been solved, as is the case with many other victims of transphobic violence. Gwendolyn Ann Smith, a transgender woman and advocate, organized a vigil held on the first anniversary of Hester’s death.  

“With so many seeking to erase transgender people — sometimes in the most brutal ways possible — it is vitally important that those we lose are remembered, and that we continue to fight for justice,” Smith said.  

According to the LGBTQ+ Commission of San Mateo County, the number of reported hate crimes against trans people has more than doubled since 1999, when the first Transgender Day of Remembrance was held.  

Trans people of color are especially at risk to be victims of hate crimes. About 79% of violence toward trans people was against people of color in 2020, while only about 45% of trans people are people of color. The disproportionate impact upon trans people of color demonstrates the importance of intersectionality when discussing transphobic violence, since neither exists in a vacuum. 

While Transgender Day of Remembrance seeks to honor the victims of transphobia, it also aims to build a better future for the trans community. By bringing awareness to the violence and hate trans people are subjected to, the community and their allies hope to spread acceptance.  

Transgender Day of Remembrance is a day to reflect upon the losses the trans community has felt over the course of the year, as well as to acknowledge that the battle against transphobia is an ongoing one. With heavy hearts, we hear the names of those lost, but we carry the hope that with awareness and acceptance, transphobic violence will come to an end. 

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