Happy Transgender Awareness Week! This week is all about highlighting the trans experience, appreciating the achievements of the trans community, and understanding what work still needs to be done. Held every year from November 13th to 19th, the week leads up to Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) on November 20, a separate day set aside in memory of trans lives lost to violence.
TDOR was founded by trans advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith in honor of Rita Hester, a trans woman who was killed in Boston in 1998. Although Smith lived on the west coast and didn’t know Hester personally, she read about the outrage of the Boston trans community over misgendered media reporting, and felt she needed to help. Smith began an online project called “Remembering Our Dead” that chronicled passed-over stories of trans violence and victimhood. Through that organization, Smith organized a vigil in 1999 to honor Hester’s life. The vigil commemorated the trans lives lost, and it began a tradition that has kept the memories of victims alive for 20 years and counting.
“The Transgender Day of Remembrance is not an event for fundraisers and beer busts,” Smith writes in a HuffPost article. “It’s not an event we ‘celebrate.’ It is not a quick and easy one-day way for organizations to get credit for their support of the transgender community. It’s not something to trot out on the 20th of November and forget about. We should be working every day for all of us, living and dead.”
This year, we remember at least 20 trans Americans — mostly women of color, specifically black women — whose lives were lost to violent acts of transphobia.
If you’d like to help support the trans community for Transgender Awareness Week and TDOR, the best way is to show up for events like vigils or panel discussions. If you’re located in New York, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center and the Audre Lorde Project are both holding vigils on the evening of November 20th. You can also show your support by donating to trans-focused organizations and causes.
The most important thing to remember is that your support is welcome during Transgender Awareness Week and TDOR, but it’s needed every other day of the year.
“This day we mourn our losses and we honor our precious dead — tomorrow and every other day, we shall continue to fight for the living,” writes Smith.
The trans women murdered in 2019 are
Michelle ‘Tamika’ Washington
Denali Berries Stuckey
Pebbles LaDime “Dime” Doe
Bee Love Slater
Jamagio Jamar Berryman,
Brianna “BB” Hill