Mourning those lost to transphobic violence and prejudice
By Jessica Berget, Staff Writer
November 20 marked the Transgender Day of Remembrance, which honoured the countless lives lost to transphobic violence and hatred.
The Transgender Day of Remembrance originally started in 1999 to commemorate the death of Rita Hester, a transgender woman in San Francisco who was found murdered on November 28, 1998. Her death inspired the web project “Remembering Our Dead,” and initiated the first candlelight vigil to memorialize her, and the many other transgender people who have been murdered or reported missing. Rita Hester’s death, like many other transgender murder cases, has yet to be solved.
This day of remembrance is an important day for both transgender and cisgender folks to recognize.
“It’s about mourning and bringing light to [transphobic] violence,” said Douglas College Pride Collective representative Tanysha Klassen.
Every year people commemorate these lives lost on the day of remembrance with a candle light vigil and a list of names of the people who have been murdered over the past year. Their names are read aloud, along with their cause of death. This is to remember these victims of transphobic violence as individual people, and to raise awareness of the hate crimes and prejudice the transgender community faces.
“Talking about queer and gay and trans issues are more public in Canada, but it is usually reduced to numbers and statistics. I think reading people’s names and hearing those stories about what has actually happened to them, causes of death, things like that, it actually makes it seem real,” Klassen said.
Canada keeps no official record of how many transgender people are lost each year due to hate crimes. However, based on US data, 2016 has been the deadliest year for transgender people on record, as reported by GLAAD.
’“This year it’s been a bit more recognized because our Prime Minister [Justin Trudeau] actually acknowledges that trans people exist and even flew the flag for pride, so I think that could contribute to it,” Klassen said. “But I also think as time goes on, we’re constantly progressing and now I think we’re getting more accepting of gay rights and people accept that gays can get married and not be abused or harassed for being gay, and I think transgender rights is the next thing people have to wrap their heads around.”
One way to help transgender folk and their fight for equality is to support the #I’llGoWithYou campaign and to wear a button with the slogan. Bearing the button means that if there is a transgender person in need of a friend to accompany them to the washroom in order to avoid harassment, you are a safe person to ask.