Transgender Day of Remembrance 2021 - Why is it so important?
November 20th of every year is Transgender Day of Remembrance, to memorialise all the victims of transphobic violence, and to draw attention to the violence that the transgender community continues to face.
Rita Hester, an African American transgender woman, was murdered in 1998. A candlelight vigil of over 250 people was held to memorialise her, and in 1999 Transgender Day of Remembrance was started. Among those involved in beginning the tradition was transgender activist and writer Gwendolyn Ann Smith, who also founded the website Remembering Our Dead to document victims of transphobic violence.
Transgender Day of Remembrance is usually observed by a vigil at which there is a reading of the names and cause of death of all those who lost their lives to transphobic violence in the past year. There may also be religious services, demonstrations, or charity drives. You can find Transgender Day of Remembrance events near you by contacting local LGBTQ+ organisations.
The Transrespect vs Transphobia Worldwide project, run by advocacy network Transgender Europe, includes the Trans Murder Monitoring project which “systematically monitors, collects and analyses reports of homicides of trans and gender-diverse people worldwide.” The data is used to understand the extent of violence and find patterns, so the overall picture of transphobic violence can be better understood. The website makes clear that their data is not complete however, due to poor reporting of transphobic hate-crimes worldwide.
Every year, the Trans Murder Monitoring project publishes information about the data they have collected over the previous year. The infographic below contains information from the past year.
- 375 trans and gender-diverse people were murdered, 7% more than in the TMM update 2020;
- Cases from Greece, Kazakhstan, and Malawi were reported for the first time;
- 96% of those murdered globally were trans women or transfeminine people;
- 58% of murdered trans people whose occupation is known were sex workers;
- Murders of trans people in the United States have doubled from last year; people of colour make up 89% of the 53 trans people murdered;
- 43% of the trans people murdered in Europe were migrants;
- 70% of all the murders registered happened in Central and South America; 33% in Brazil;
- 36% of the murders took place on the street and 24% in their own residence;
- The average age of those murdered is 30 years old; the youngest being 13 years old and the oldest 68 years old.
You may see headlines about this being the deadliest year on record for transgender people. While it’s true that this year has the highest reported number of murders of transgender people, there’s also an increased awareness of transgender people that could be causing the number of reported cases to be closer to the true number of cases than it has been in previous years. That doesn’t change the fact that every one of these deaths, and the many that have gone unreported, are absolutely horrific.
You may be wondering what you can do for Transgender Day of Remembrance. Aside from attending your local vigil (if safe for you to do so) the Transgender Europe organisation asks that you share their resources and images (available here) on social media. If you are a transgender activist/artist they ask that you highlight your own work and your story. Or, if you are an ally then they ask you to amplify trans voices and donate to organisations to help transgender people most at risk of violence, such as Black people, People of Colour, sex workers, and refugees.
Transgender Day of Remembrance is an important time but is likely to be distressing too for many people. Awareness is important, but if you’re transgender you’re probably already acutely aware of the violence faced by the community. Remember to take care of your mental health and your trans friends—you might arrange to have a quiet cup of tea together in a safe place after attending a vigil, or whatever you need to take some time to recover. Transgender Day of Remembrance is about honouring those lost, but also about bringing the community together, and that can start with you and your loved ones.