Transgender Day of Remembrance, often abbreviated as TDoR, is recognized annually on November 20th. TDoR is an international observance that honors Transgender individuals who are killed annually because of anti-transgender hate crimes. This day gives the transgender community and its allies a forum to remember those who were taken from us through transphobic hate crimes and to spread awareness about the threat of anti-transgender violence.
The GLAAD website states that TDoR began in 1999 by Gwendolyn Ann Smith. She wanted to honor the memory of a transgender woman from Allston, Massachusetts who was killed in 1998, named Rita Hester. During Rita’s vigil, all the transgender people lost to violence since her death were also commemorated. This began the tradition of Transgender Day of Remembrance and it has been an annual observance ever since. In a 2016 article Gwendolyn Ann Smith stated: “This day we mourn our losses and we honor our precious dead — tomorrow and every other day, we shall continue to fight for the living.” Smith started off with a web-based project and it grew into an international day action and recognition for the transgender community. Transgender Day of Remembrance does not recognize lawful deaths, suicides, accidents, or other causes of death of transgender individuals.
In 2018 there were 26 known deaths of transgender and gender non-conforming individuals due to transphobic hate crimes. The Human Rights Campaign states that in 2019, we have had 22 cases so far, most of which are transgender women of color. The HRC goes on to say that transgender women of color are disproportionally at risk for anti-trans violence. The intersections of racism, sexism, and transphobia in some cases can lead to unemployment, lack of health care and homelessness leaving them vulnerable. The names of the 22 known victims this year are: Dana Martin, Jazzaline Ware, Ashanti Carmon, Claire Legato, Muhlaysia Booker, Michelle ‘Tamika’ Washington, Paris Cameron, Chynal Lindsey, Chanel Scurlock, Zoe Spears, Brooklyn Lindsey, Denali Berries Stuckey, Tracy Single, Bubba Walker, Kiki Fantroy, Jordan Cofer, Pebbles LaDime “Dime” Doe, Bailey Reeves, Bee Love Slater, Jamagio Jamar Berryman, Itali Marlowe, Brianna “BB” Hill, Johana ‘Joa’ Medina, and Layleen Polanco.
The observation of TDoR varies from event to event. Vigils can involve raising the Transgender Pride flag, having candlelight vigils, inviting guest speakers and reading the names of those taken from us that year. Other events can include marches, church services and community projects like food drives or film screenings.
The week prior to TDoR, November 13-19, is nationally recognized as Transgender Awareness Week. In some cities and states the entire month of November is established as Transgender Awareness Month. The transgender community and its allies use these times to help spread awareness and information of the social and political conditions that effect transgender and gender non-conforming individuals.
What can you do to help raise awareness or support the transgender community? There are numerous ways to help the transgender and gender non-conforming community locally, nationally and internationally. One way to help is by sharing information online through social media and emails. By simply adding your pronouns to your email signature you could help normalize the practice. This could make your friends, coworkers and colleagues feel more comfortable with their online presence. When you read interesting articles or political initiatives on or around the subject of transgender and gender non-conforming issues, share them on social media and voice your opinion on the subject. Other ways to help spread awareness would be to ask your school or workplace to hang a Transgender Pride Flag during the month of November, Transgender Awareness Week, or on Transgender Day of Remembrance. You can also push for gender neutral bathrooms in public spaces that you frequent including work, school, church, restaurants and community spaces. You could volunteer at your local LGBT center, donate clothing to them, or help establish a clothing drive. If you have the funds available, donate to an LGBT Center, or transgender and gender non-conforming initiatives. All of these ideas are simple ways that directly or indirectly help the transgender community. Each and every step you take is one step closer to saving the lives of the transgender and gender non-conforming people through education, community action, and public awareness.