On November 20, 1999, activist Gwendolyn Smith Ann Smith honored the memory of Rita Hester, a trans woman killed in Boston the year before, with the first Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR).
Since 1999, TDOR is a time for us, collectively and independently, to commemorate the all too many transgender individuals whose lives were taken by acts of violence. It’s a list that keeps growing, with each year surpassing the one before in the number of deaths reported. These growing numbers reflect how, in part, our society is becoming more aware of transgender lives, with victims of violence now more likely to be identified in accordance with their gender identities.
But too often, these growing numbers force us to recognize a much darker truth: that we live in a world where too many see transgender and gender nonconforming individuals as expendable.
Just over a week ago, GO reported that 2021 is now the deadliest year on record, with 46 known transgender and gender nonconforming individuals killed as a result of violence, according to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). The number is now 47. It’s likely higher, as those killed might not be identified as transgender.
“Transgender Day of Remembrance seeks to highlight the losses we face due to anti-transgender bigotry and violence,” Smith said. “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.”
Earlier this week, Human Rights Watch released a 65-page report highlighting the ongoing risks of violence transgender individuals face, particularly Black transwomen and transwomen of color. The report concludes that the continued marginalization of transgender individuals puts them at greater risk of violence by strangers, law enforcement, and even their own family members and loved ones.
“Every year, advocates document dozens of cases of fatal violence against transgender people,” said Ryan Thoreson, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, in a statement released with the report. “And these killings are symptomatic of a wider pattern of physical and sexual assaults, verbal harassment, and intimidation of transgender people that demands urgent attention.”
The violence is not always fatal, but still persistent. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, “More than one in four trans people has faced a bias-driven assault, and rates are higher for trans women and trans people of color.”
TDOR gives us a time to reflect on the lives lost, or otherwise impacted, by violence. Across the country, LGBTQ+ centers, advocacy organizations, and local colleges and universities hold candlelight vigils to commemorate those lost. If you’d like to get involved, check out local listings for any such events in your area.
Our hearts our with our trans and gender non-conforming family today and everyday. GO Magazine is sending all of our love to our community on this day of mourning and remembrance.