By Ashley Altadonna
Annually, November 20th is known as the Transgender Day of Remembrance. This year marks the twentieth anniversary since Gwendolyn Anne Smith founded the event to memorialize the murder of Rita Hester in 1999. Since then, TDoR has grown from a web-based project to an internationally recognized day of remembering those transgender and non-binary individuals who have been killed or taken their own lives due to transphobia, discrimination, and violence.
This year alone at least 331 transgender and gender-expansive individuals have been killed. Of these, 130 deaths occurred in Brazil, Mexico had 63, and the U.S. reportedly saw 30. An exact number is difficult to determine because often victims of trans-related violence are not identified as transgender in either police records or in media reporting. These murders disproportionately affect trans women of color, by a vast margin. 61% of those killed were involved in sex-work. 1 in 3 were shot. And media reporting on these deaths often involves graphic and gruesome details, as well as deadnaming and misgendering the victims.
In a time of an unprecedented level of transgender awareness, where trans and gender-diverse people have made incredible strides in so many arenas, there is still much stigma and discrimination happening against our community. In the U.S. alone, at least 28 pieces of anti-transgender legislation have been introduced. Earlier this year the Supreme Court of the United States demonstrated its discomfort and unfamiliarity with transgender issues when it heard arguments addressing whether LGBT individuals can be fired on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity. In fact, some members of the court met with an anti-LGBT hate group. The Trump administration has rolled back or tried to negate many of the hard-won legal protections that transgender Americans were given under the Obama administration. These include protections for transgender students and prisoners, access to housing and healthcare, the right to serve in the military, and more.
In this context, it is easy to see why rates of violence against the transgender community have grown or remained consistent over the past several years. Our newsfeeds are routinely interrupted with reports of discrimination and abuse. We are constantly reminded of the horrors of violence with the hashtag #SayTheirName.
And we should say their names: Dana Martin, Ellie Marie, Washtock, Jazzaline Ware, Ashanti Carmon, Claire Legato, Muhlaysia Booker, Michelle “Tamika” Washington, Paris Cameron, Chynal Lindsey, Johana Medina Leon, Chanel Scurlock, Zoe Spears, Brooklyn Lindsey, Denali Berries Stuckey, Tracy Single, Kiki Fantroy, Pebbles LaDime Doe, Jordan Cofer, Bailey Reeves, Bee Love Slater, Elisha Chanel Stanley, Itali Marlowe, Brianna “BB” Hill, and on, and on, and on…
The Transgender Day of Remembrance is fraught with complicated emotions in our community. For some, it is a day of solace, reflection, and grieving. For others, it’s a way of remembering and honoring our community. It can be a bitter reminder of how far we have to go, or a calling to remain resilient in the face of overwhelming adversities. Regardless of how one feels, Transgender Day of Remembrance is still needed even after twenty years, maybe now more than ever.