Trans Day of Remembrance: A Reminder of Resilience Against Violence.

On the 20th of November, we remember and honor our Trans and gender-diverse people that were taken by violence. On a daily basis, transgender people fight for the validation of their basic human rights and human rights. From the Stonewall Riots in June of 1969 to the recent Beirut Revolution of 2019, transgender people have been a bulwark in the liberation of gay voices and the fight against societal shame against the LGBTQ+ community. Yet transgender people all around the world still face persistent persecution and violence. This year, the Trans Murdering Monitoring (TMM) reported that 350 trans and gender non-conforming people were murdered worldwide between October 1, 2019 and September 30, 2020. And while 350 murder victims might sound like a small number, in a group that’s already a very small minority – far fewer than 1% of people in the world identify as transgender – the deaths have an impact on trans people across the world, especially as most of these victims are women of color. These numbers are the highest ever since data collection began on transgender violence in 2013.

Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) was started in 1999 by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith as a vigil honoring the memory of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was killed in 1998. The vigil commemorated all the transgender people lost to violence since Rita Hester’s death, and began an important tradition that has become the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance.

There are many different hurdles to transgender equality. In many countries, transgender recognition is non-existent or even punishable. The United States is an example where transgender rights have become a hot-topic, as activists argue an epidemic of anti-transgender violence is occurring, especially against transgender women of color. A mixture of anti-transgender stigma, denial of opportunity and increased risk factors compound to create a culture of violence. In the United States, only 20 states and the district of Columbia have laws and policies that protect transgender and gender non-conforming people from discrimination. Additionally, many states still allow a certain legal loop-hole called “panic defense.” This archaic legal car crash allows perpetrators of anti-transgender violence and murder to plead innocent, arguing that the realization of the victim’s sexual or gender identity spurred them to violent action, which they could not help. Thus, persecuting suspects and criminals is difficult enough, but finding them remains an even greater challenge. Many cases of transgender violence remain unsolved, such as the iconic murder of Marsha P. Johnson in 1996 (She was a transgender activist in the Stonewall Riots and the Gay Liberation Movement in the 1960’s to 1980’s).

Although facing such challenges, the transgender community is a symbol of resilience against persecution. “I try to keep in mind that we do not forget each other, we care for each other, and we respect each other, no matter how much the system might despise our trajectories,” says Simakawa, a trans-feminist activist and researcher based in north-eastern Brazil and program officer with the International Trans Fund (ITF), which works to support trans-led groups and movements across the world. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, inequalities, systemic oppression and violence by state and non-state actors have heightened and it is ever more important to recognize the realities of trans communities and the persistent fight of activists to build a more self-aware, resilient and connected trans community in the world. As one of the stripes on our rainbow, this article cannot do justice to the issues and feelings of the transgender community, but it is important to remember that every individual has the right to their sexuality and gender, no matter the legal and societal barriers that we currently have enshrined in many systems of power. Let us remember those lost, and hope for better days of acceptance, justice and equality for all.

By Paul Schamp

Further Readings

https://www.hrc.org/resources/violence-against-the-trans-and-gender-non-conforming-community-in-2020

https://time.com/5914256/transgender-day-of-remembrance-2020/

Picture from: https://news.yahoo.com/rapid-onset-gender-dysphoria-investigated-194518324.html

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