On November 28, 1998, the LGBTQ community received a wake up call. Rita Hester was an African American transgender woman found stabbed to death in her own apartment. Rita Hester’s murder is believed by many to be a hate-crime. As a result, Gwendolyn Ann Smith founded in 1999 the online project “Remembering Our Dead” and also organized a San Francisco vigil. Every year since then, November 20 has become a day where the LGBTQ community, nationally and internationally, pauses to remember those killed due to transphobia.
The Transgender Day of Remembrance (TRD) helps initiate the discussion of issues and struggles transgender people endure. The transgender community faces discrimination and underrepresentation. This day hopes to promote activism and change to help better the lives of people in the LGBTQ community.
TRD is vital because of the lack of awareness about this issue. Caitlyn Jenner receives awards for being courageous by Glamour, which brings awareness to the LGBT community, but is one of the few times it is brought up in the conversation. The struggles, however, transgendered people face do not receive the attention they deserve. According to Trans Murder Monitoring Project, over 1,700 transgendered people have been murdered in the past 7 years worldwide. Compared to 2009, when the reports began, 121 transgendered people were murdered. The number is rapidly increasing, as the awareness surrounding it is not.
In the United States, according to the Human Rights Campaign, at least 21 transgender people have been murdered in 2015, which is inexcusable.Especially when taken into consideration that 21 is just an estimate.
The lack of awareness, says a report from Transequality.org, also leads to high suicide rates of 41%, which increases with added factors of unemployment, harassment, and assault.
It is apparent that the transgender community continues to suffer alone, or the death rate would not be increasing linearly. However, the transgender community does not have to continue to suffer alone. By participating in the day of remembrance of transgendered people, you help support and stand in solidarity with those whose lives ended too soon.
One of the more recent transgender murders occurred on October 15. Zella Ziona, a transgender woman of color, lived in Gaithersburg, MD. Ziona was shot in the head and left for dead in an alley. She was the 21st transgender woman to be murdered this year, but one of the few whose murders will be investigated as a hate crime. There are only 16 states, including Washington, DC, with hate crime legislation to include protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Outside of these 16 states, convicted murderers cannot be charged with committing a hate crime. Mislabeling hate crimes fails to provide Ziona and many others the justice they deserve, nor does it validate whether or not the transgender community matters.
Today, the LGBTQ community and allies are standing in solidarity against the mistreatment and neglect transgender people face. Today is to memorialize the 78 transgender murders worldwide, the deaths that have occurred in the past, and the unknown losses.
Please take a moment now to watch a photo memorial made by ProudYouth to remember those in the United States who lost their live in 2015 in the transgender community. Visit the International Transgender Day of Remembrance memorial site at http://tdor.info/.