Transgender Day of Remembrance: Remembering our Transgender Dead

visibilityDeja Nicole Greenlaw at a former Pride celebration circa 2012.
Photo: TRT Archives
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Transgender Day of Remembrance is November 20

By: Deja Nicole Greenlaw*/TRT Columnist—

November is the time for the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, (TDoR). It is the time that we memorialize all of the trans people who have been murdered, often very brutally, within the past year. It is the day that we remember our transgender dead.

The TDoR was started by Gwendolyn Ann Smith on November 20, 1999 when Gwen memorialized the murder of trans woman, Rita Hester, who was brutally murdered in the Boston area the previous year on November 20, 1998. At the same time Gwen memorialized Rita’s death, Gwen also started the annual TDoR to memorialize all of the trans people who were murdered within the past year. The TDoRs have been held since every year. The year for memorializing the deaths runs from November 20 to the next November 20 and they are held all over the world.

Rita Hester was a trans woman who educated people in the Boston area about trans identities and issues. She was stabbed 20 times in her Allston, Mass. apartment. Her neighbor called the police and Rita was rushed to the hospital where she died within minutes after her arrival. The police never found the culprit. Many times, the murderer, or murderers of a trans person are never brought to justice.

As of this writing, more than 20 trans women have been murdered in the U.S. this year. Last year, there were more than 90 murders worldwide. So far, this year’s murders in the U.S. consist of severe beatings, burnings,, shootings, strangulations, stabbings, and throat cuttings. In the past years there have been transgender people run over by cars, stoned to death, decapitated, and dismembered. One year, I recall reading that one person was killed and their body was thrown into a dumpster. There was even a young toddler once who was dropped on his head several times by his father before he died because he didn’t act “man enough.” It’s horrible the way that these trans people have been murdered and that is why we hold the TDoR every year—to memorialize these folks and to bring awareness of these heinous murders to the world.

A TDoR generally consists of a brief explanation of the origin and purpose of the TDoR, the reading of the deceased names and how they died, speeches, sometimes musical pieces, and perhaps a blessing from a local minister, priest, rabbi, etc. It’s a very powerful and moving experience and I believe it is something that everyone should attend at least once. One can get a better grasp of the issues facing trans people and the violence that too many of us endure, especially of those who perish in a violent manner.

Recently many TDoRs have been including those trans people who have taken their own lives. Some people might object to including these people who perished by suicide because it may take away from the original purpose of the TDoR, which is to concentrate on the violence inflicted upon trans people by others. Personally, I understand both points of view. Yes, we must keep the focus on the violence thrust upon us, but too many of us have had trans friends who have taken their own lives and it’s very hard to exclude the memory of friends who have taken their own lives. One suggestion is to keep the two lists separate but include both in the TDoR.

Most TDoRs are held on November 20 but there are others held before and some held after November 20.

Please check your local area for TDoRs near you and please consider attending. It is horrible the way that some trans people have died and we must make more and more people aware of the transphobic prejudice, harassment, and violence thrust upon us.

For more information on TDoRs please visit the original website https://goo.gl/9x1Ixf. Also GLAAD has an informative website https://goo.gl/eeaXct.

*Deja Nicole Greenlaw is a trans woman who has 3 grown children and is retired from 3M. She can be contacted at dejavudeja@sbcglobal.net.