November 20, 2009

International Transgender Day of Remembrance

The International Transgender Day of Remembrance is observed on November 20th to honor transgender victims of violence.

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Today is the International Transgender Day of Remembrance where we remember victims of violence who were attacked based on their gender or gender presentation, often transgender individuals.  According to a Transgender Day of Remembrance website:

The Transgender Day of Remembrance was set aside to memorialize those who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. The event is held in November to honor Rita Hester, whose murder on November 28th, 1998 kicked off the “Remembering Our Dead” web project and a San Francisco candlelight vigil in 1999. Rita Hester’s murder — like most anti-transgender murder cases — has yet to be solved.Although not every person represented during the Day of Remembrance self-identified as transgender — that is, as a transsexual, crossdresser, or otherwise gender-variant — each was a victim of violence based on bias against transgender people.

Fillyjonk (a blogger from Shapely Prose) remind us that while setting aside time today to remember the victims of violence is good we must also remember that violent acts against transgender individuals happen everyday and that the discrimination and indifference experienced by transgender individuals is just as pervasive.

Victims of transphobia or anti-trans biogtry include people like Robert Eads, who died of ovarian cancer after two dozen doctors refused him treatment. The 2001 documentary Southern Comfort follows him during his last year of life.

Kate (the creator of Shapely Prose) blogged about TDOR and highlighted the fact that many of the violence victims were members of multiple oppressed groups — not only were they trans, but most were women and many of those with photos seem to be people of color. While remembering and honoring the trans people who have died as a result of violence, there are larger issues to think about when we only see these victims as transgender while ignoring other factors that might have led to their victimization or even just recognizing that transgender people are more than just their gender identity.

I think the message here is that this should be a day of awareness not just honoring those transgender people who have died unnecessarily due to hatred and ignorance but also recognizing the issues transgender people face everyday just to exist in our cisdominant (see here for an explain of cisgender and cissexual – or a great video here) society.  The Shaply Prose blog also features an extensive quote from another blogger who is hesitant to engage in TDOR activities for some specific reasons surrounding conflation of identity. I think her extended quote speaks to this issue of remembering victims on one day versus a more general awareness of transgender struggles for acceptance and equality.

From Gudbuytjane’s post on Transgender Day of Remembrance:

I used to distance myself from the Trans Day of Remembrance. It made me angry, and in ways I couldn’t discuss with my mostly cisgender community (as some of that anger was directed at them, inevitably). … So I kept away, head down and earphones in as November 20th snuck past my peripheral vision, exhaling only when it was gone for another year. Still, on my own I found myself on the internet, reading the stories of the dozens of trans women who are brutally murdered every year. I learned their names and their faces, and soon this cisgender dominance began to slip. I felt myself reclaiming my own experience of the day, my relationship to these women who died, and ultimately my responsibility to them. …

In the face of a cisdominant culture that enforces false narratives to keep trans women marginalized, it is imperative we make our voices heard. I’ve written about this before, and I believe it is an essential process for dismantling cissupremacy. The most important voices to be heard are our dead, and the responsibility for those voices lies with those of us who are still alive. Not for cis culture to consume, not even for ourselves, but for these women who are no longer with us; By giving them dignity we give ourselves dignity, and demand it from a culture which withholds it from us. Even if it is only knowing their name or a tiny bit of their story, it gives back to them some of the humanity their killers took.

Although cisdominant media inevitably focuses on the murders of these women, pieces of the stories of their lives nonetheless get through. This is how she died is supplanted for brief moments by This is how she lived. Amplify that. Know the stories of their lives, and tell the stories of your own. Not just on November 20th, but every day.

Please take the time today to post about the Transgender Day of Remembrance on your Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr. Take the time to read the stories of the victims of violence. And, finally, take the time to see what you can do to help work towards increasing acceptance of transgender individuals in your life and in your community.

  • Thank you for writing this article. I liked how you wove the story. As an organizer for the San Francisco Transmarch I posted your article to our website blog and tweet. I hope you get a few hits from it! Check out