Today is the 12th annual International Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR), a day set aside to memorialize and mourn people who have been murdered in the previous year because of anti-transgender bias, and to raise awareness about anti-trans violence and hate crimes.
TDOR began as a memorial to honor Rita Hester, an African American trans woman brutally murdered in November 1998, the fourth Boston area trans woman to be killed in as many years (TransGriot).
Like Stacey Blahnik Lee, Hester was further violated after her death by news coverage that misgendered her, identifying her as male, using male pronouns, and referring to her by her former name – as is sadly typical of news coverage trans murder victims.
Like Lee and most victims of transphobic violence, Hester was a trans woman of color. 70% of the people memorialized in this year’s TDOR are people of color. Trans women are overwhelmingly the targets of transphobic discrimination, sexual assault, rape, and physical violence.
As with most anti-trans murders, Hester’s murder remains unsolved.
Worldwide, 179 trans people are known to have been murdered in the past year; that’s an average of one trans person murdered every two days. This number is almost certainly only a fraction of the true number of lives lost to transphobic violence in the past year. Nor does this number include lives lost because of systemic denial of health care to transgender people, harassment and discrimination from medical professionals, and medical ignorance about transgender people and their health needs (Bird of Paradox).
While the recent attention to the problems of bullying and suicide among gay youth is much needed, the even higher rates of bullying and suicide among transgender people has largely been overlooked. A recent study found that 41% of trans participants had attempted suicide in the past – compared to 1.6% of the overall population (PDF, ht Bird of Paradox, see previous link). This number is also probably a low estimate.
TDOR honors the memories of people who have, in life and in death, been denied the honor and dignity that was their birthright as human beings. It reminds us that our society’s insistence on ignorant and inhumane gender norms violently denies and restricts the lived realities of so many people. It reminds us that there are people who are no longer with us because of the lies about sex and gender we demand that everyone conform to and accept as truth.
Those of us who are cisgender – those of us whose bodies line up with what our internal sense of gender (our gender identity) tells us to expect – bear a responsibility to listen to and lift up the voices of trans people, and be in solidarity with them in fighting societal cis privilege and anti-trans discrimination. We can start by:
– Taking some time to learn about and remember the people who have died in the past year.
– Participating in a TDOR ceremony where we live.
– Reading and promoting blogs, articles, books, etc. by trans people, especially trans women and trans POC. TransGriot, Bird of Paradox, Questioning Transphobia are some good blogs to start with.
– Educating ourselves about trans issues and transphobia. The “Trans 101” links in the righthand column at Questioning Transphobia are a good place to start.
– Working to recognize and check our cis privilege.
– Finding ways to volunteer with or support local and national trans organizations.