Raising awareness, spreading love and memorializing
Second Transgender Day of Remembrance ceremony held in Wyckham
By Nina Grossman, Layout Editor
A small group of MRU students came together in Wyckham House Nov. 18 to recognize the 17th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) recognized globally Nov. 20.
SAMRU volunteer and Relationship, Sex, Identity planning and Implementation Committee (RISPIC) member Nathan Lawley spoke at MRU’s TDoR ceremony.
“Public education, policy change and community efforts are needed more and more to address the complex causes of anti-transgender violence and to help create a world where we are all safe to be our true selves,” Lawley said to the audience.
Attendees were invited to join the ceremony hosts in reading off the names of transgender individuals who have been murdered in hate crimes around the world.
“We recognize that this list is, in reality, much longer than the 87 [names] we will be reading out loud today,” Lawley said. “During our ceremony we [will] honour, not only the 87 on this list, but all the people that have been killed due to anti-transgender violence in the past year who may not be named here today.”
“These names, and these people, are those who have been lost to [the] bigotry and hatred that transgender and gender-nonconforming communities face every day just for exercising their right to be themselves in the world,” Lawley said, adding that 25 per cent of transgender people have faced some type of assault, and that the numbers are even higher for trans women and people of colour.
Transgender activist Gwendolyn Ann Smith started TDoR in 1998 after Rita Hester; a black transgender woman, was murdered in her apartment. Hester’s death followed the highly publicized murder of Matthew Shepard, a young gay man murdered in Wyoming.
When Hester’s murder received little media attention and public awareness, Smith started TDoR to honour Hester’s life and the lives of hundreds, possibly thousands of victims of anti-transgender violence.
TDoR aims to raise “public awareness of hate crimes against transgender people,” express “love and respect for our people in the face of national indifference and hatred,” and publicly mourn and honour “the lives of individuals who might otherwise be forgotten.”
“[TDoR] is important because it brings awareness to the fact that these are men and women who are being murdered for just being who they are,” says SAMRU volunteer and RISPIC member Aalayna Spence.
“It’s important for people to realize that these are lives that are being lost … because of ignorance and bigotry and hatred … and it’s about time that people start understanding that … we are human, we are all human and we all deserve to be treated with respect.”
Spence says it’s important to stand in solidarity with transgender people in the United States, where political developments have created a tumultuous social climate for a variety of minority groups.
“These are human beings that are being marginalized and discriminated against,” she says. “And it’s not just the queer community, it’s African-American people, Muslim people … Hispanic people … I feel that we, as Canadians, should stand in solidarity with our siblings down in America, because they need us most now.”
“[It] just makes me want to stand up and speak louder,” she adds.
During the ceremony, Lawley’s voice wavers slightly as he addresses the group.
“In the current world climate, anti-transgender violence is on the rise, and our situation will likely get worse before it gets better,” he says. “As we leave the ceremony today, please consider ways we can use the space we have in the world to help those who may fall victim to violence.”
To learn more about TDoR, visit tdor.info and show your support by your using #TDoR on Twitter or Instagram.