Transgender Day of Remembrance: They Need to Be Honored
"I've never been interested in being invisible and erased."— Laverne Cox
November 20, 2019, marks the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, and this year marks two decades since its inception. It started when Gwendolyn Ann Smith, who is transgender, wanted to honor a murdered trans woman by the name of Rita Hester in 1999. Since then, the day has evolved to encompass nearly 200 cities in some 20 countries. In Ontario, Canada, for instance, the Legislative Assembly of Ontario holds a minute of silence each November 20, thanks to the passage of the Trans Day of Remembrance Act in 2017 (per Wikipedia).
According to TransRespect.org, there have been 3,314 reported killings of transgender and gender-diverse people between January 2008 and September 2019 in 74 countries worldwide. Between October 1, 2018, and September 30, 2019, 331 killings of transgender and gender-diverse people occurred. My question is, as always, why?
I don't understand murder as it is, unless it's of someone who has visited harm upon a child. When it's a murder of someone who has finally found the freedom to live as their authentic selves and who does not appear to be causing anyone any harm, it makes me angry.
The discrimination and injustices that have frequently targeted the transgender and gender-diverse community have been well documented throughout the media. Are we so fearful of differences that we need to deliberately attack each other to the point where we eliminate each other from existence?
One only needs to look at the daily news to understand the answer to this question. When it comes to the trans or gender-diverse population, there are reasons why people who come to understand that they are trans leave their home countries and seek refuge elsewhere. There are reasons why trans individuals may not disclose their identities, choosing instead to "pass" until they feel safe where they are.
The Transgender Day of Remembrance is about honoring the 3,000-plus individuals who have been taken, far too soon, and the legacy they have left behind. Awareness about the violence, discrimination and harassment that transgender and gender-diverse individuals have had to endure continues to spread, but we still need to do more and be better. We need to take a moment on November 20 and understand that trans and gender-diverse individuals face a level of violence that you or I might not necessarily understand, and they might end up paying the ultimate price simply because they choose—they need, as we all do—to live authentically.
We can no longer ignore and pretend that the violence and discrimination against transgender and gender-diverse individuals isn't as serious as we might believe. It's real, and it's hurting some of our youngest members.
There are teenagers who are starting to realize who they are, and they might find their gender identity might, in fact, be transgender or gender diverse. Imagine what it would be like for these individuals to know that by living as they truly are, rather than with their birth-assigned gender, they could very well be putting their lives on the line one day. Imagine being so virulently hated simply for your gender identity, to the point where someone might want to harm you to the point of killing you.
This is not to say there have not been instances of violence against one particular group in society. Certainly, there are several racial groups that can heavily identify with having been lashed out against, simply for the color of their skin. It would appear that that brand of violence is continuing to extend to the trans and gender-diverse community.
The number of trans and gender-diverse individuals killed over the last year has dipped slightly—2018 figures reveal that 369 individuals were killed, while in 2017, numbers reveal that 325 individuals were killed. That does not diminish the work that needs to continue as far as trans visibility and honoring those who were killed.
The fact that there continues to be so many transgender and gender-diverse individuals killed annually is a significant tragedy that goes beyond the LGBTQ+ community. It's crucial now, particularly in this time where we seem to be more divided than ever, that we step forward on the Transgender Day of Remembrance and honor those who have been killed and ensure that we all work together to end the violence against trans and gender-diverse people.