November 20, 2015
A History of the Event and Why It’s So Important Today
In 2015, transgender issues are being discussed more than ever before in all facets of American society. Many transgender people have died simply for living their lives the way they felt were authentic — so much so that mainstream news outlets have commented on the “epidemic” that we’ve witnessed this past year.
Many transgender people have been murdered worldwide this year alone, with many of those murders happening right here in the United States. Nearly two dozen American transgender men or women have died at the hands of transphobic violence — two of whom, Kristina Grant Infiniti and India Clarke, called Florida home.
The National Transgender Day of Remembrance seeks to memorialize and give dignity and respect to the transgender people who were taken from this world and — in many cases — misgendered and denied dignity by law enforcement or even their biological famiies in death. For people who may not know a lot about transgender issues, this day of remembrance may seem like a new development, but it has been around for quite a few years.
On November 28, 1998, Rita Hester, a black transgender woman, was murdered in her own apartment in Allston, Massachusetts. Over 250 people participated in a candlelight vigil in Rita’s memory on December 4 of that year. Gwendolyn Ann Smith, a graphic designer and transgender woman herself, decided to found the Transgender Day of Remembrance, which has been held annually on November 20 since 1999.
Since 1999, Transgender Day of Remembrance ceremonies have been held in over two dozen countries. A remembrance memorial ceremony almost always consists of a candlelight vigil and a reading of the list of murdered transgender people from the past year. It may also include marches, mini-film festivals and other activities designed to raise awareness.
Smith describes the Transgender Day of Remembrance via her website thusly: “Through the vigil, we express love and respect for our people in the face of national indifference and hatred. 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.”
For more information on the Transgender Day of Remembrance, including a full list of 2015 vigils and remembrance ceremonies, visit tdor.info.