Today is International Transgender Day of Remembrance, (TDOR) the final day of Transgender Awareness Week 2020. It’s the day that we take to remember and honor the lives of trans people who were murdered simply for existing.
The holiday began in 1999 when trans activist Gwendolyn Ann Smith set up a vigil in the memory of Rita Hester, a Black trans woman who was murdered on November 28, 1998. While the vigil was for Hester, Smith also honored all trans people who had been lost to violence in the past year — a tradition that continued annually.
View this post on Instagram
“Transgender Day of Remembrance seeks to highlight the losses we face due to anti-transgender bigotry and violence,” reads a quote by Gwendolyn Ann Smith. “I am no stranger to the need to fight for our rights, and the right to simply exist is first and foremost. 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.”
Hester’s murder was also the catalyst to the creation of the Remembering Our Dead project, which served to educate the public on the struggles of the trans community and honor the lost every year through a Day of Remembrance. The original website, which is no longer accessible, notes that “The Transgender Day of Remembrance serves several purposes.”
“[The project] raises public awareness of hate crimes against transgender people, an action that current media doesn’t perform. Day of Remembrance publicly mourns and honors the lives of our brothers and sisters who might otherwise be forgotten,” reads the website. “Day of Remembrance reminds non-transgender people that we are their sons, daughters, parents, friends and lovers. Day of Remembrance gives our allies a chance to step forward with us and stand in vigil, memorializing those of us who’ve died by anti-transgender violence.”
This year, TDOR is both a necessary and heartbreaking event. Considering 2020 is on pace to be the deadliest on record for trans individuals, according to Everytown for Gun Safety, there are so many lives to remember and honor today.
“This year, we reached two grim milestones — the Human Rights Campaign has recorded the most deaths of transgender and gender non-conforming people of any year since we began tracking this violence, and we have documented more than 200 total deaths,” says Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David. “Every life that we have lost this year and every year had value and did not deserve to be cut short. … It’s on all of us to fight for change at every level and take action to support trans and gender non-conforming people. We must work to dismantle the stigma that so many in the trans and gender non-conforming community face, and bring this violence to an end.”
Vigils are the typical way to honor the killed for TDOR, but it’s hard to gather a bunch of people closely together during the pandemic. For that reason, GO suggests lighting a few candles of your own at home to honor our trans brothers and sisters. See if a local LGBTQ+ center is holding a virtual vigil and stay connected through the computer. Even during COVID, it’s important to remember the trans lives that we have lost this year to violence and reflect on how we as a community can make the world safer for them moving forward.