It’s Transgender Day of Remembrance as I write this and this year it feels more urgent than ever to take time and remember the transgender people whose lives were taken due to anti-transgender violence. Our lives right now during these times of COVID-19 are getting more and more isolated, even as our technology makes it possible for us to have what seems like a constant stream of information from the outside. Still, internet things like algorithms and cookies are curating our view of the world in a way that makes it hard for us to see past our own little corner. Unfortunately, 37 transgender people have been killed in the United States in 2020, the largest amount on record according to the Human Rights Campaign. Knowing that these hate crimes are often misreported or not categorized as such, it’s hard to determine the exact numbers of transgender people who have been murdered for being themselves through the years.
Transgender Day of Remembrance came out of the Remembering Our Dead project, a web-based resource built in 1998 by San Francisco writer, activist, and transgender person Gwendolyn Ann Smith as a response to two murders of trans women in Boston that were underreported. In 1999, trans activists in the Bay area and Boston hosted their own Transgender Day of Remembrance vigils using names posted on the Remembering Our Dead project site as their source material.
We may not be able to attend in-person vigils or gatherings this year for Transgender Day of Remembrance but we can still hold these names in our hearts. Selena Reyes-Hernandez was killed here in Chicago in May. Ciara Minaj Frazier was killed in October 2018 on the west side. Dejanay Stanton was killed at the end of the summer of 2018 in Bronzeville. Keke Collier was killed in Englewood in February 2017.
These are just a few of the lives that have been lost over the years, and I encourage you to make their memories a blessing by learning more about transgender people and their histories. Donate to local organizations that serve the trans community (I’ve listed a few below). And celebrate the transgender and non-binary people in your own life.
Local and national organizations that serve the Transgender community:
- Official Transgender Day of Remembrance site
- Brave Space Alliance
- Chicago House (and their TransLife Care program)
- Howard Brown Health
- Center on Halsted
- Anti-Violence Project
Events coming up:
- Fri 11/20, 5 PM: The University of Chicago’s Center for Identity and Inclusion hosts a Virtual Vigil for Transgender Day of Remembrance
- Sat 11/21, Sat 12/5, and Sat 12/19 (with timed ticketing): South Side Community Art Center presents Chicago artist Jesse Howard’s solo exhibition “The Spirit of Community”
- Sun 11/22: last day to access Interrobang Theatre Project’s play The Spin in its online presentation.