This article was published on November 17th, 2020
Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) began in 1999 by transgender activist Gwendolyn Ann Smith as a vigil to honor the memory of Rita Hester, a black transgender woman that was killed in 1998. The vigil commemorated all transgender people that have been murdered since Hester’s death, and began an important tradition that has resulted in the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance. Smith defined the annual day thusly:
“Transgender Day of Remembrance seeks to highlight the losses we face due to anti-transgender bigotry and violence. I am no stranger to the need to fight for our rights, and the right to simply exist is first and foremost. With so many seeking to erase transgender people — sometimes in the most brutal ways possible — it is vitally important that those we lose are remembered, and that we continue to fight for justice.”
– Transgender Day of Remembrance founder Gwendolyn Ann Smith
Over the years, TDOR has gradually evolved from an exclusively web-based project into an international day of recognition and action that is now observed in more than 185 cities across 20 countries. Every year, there is a memorial that includes reading the names of the transgendered people that have lost their lives since the last event.
Typical events during this time include candlelight vigils, church services, art shows, marches, film screenings, and food drives. GLAAD has been a huge supporter of the event over the years, interviewing several transgender advocates (including producer Janet Mock and actress Candis Cayne) and profiling events held at the New York City LGBT Community Center.
The Guiding Principles of the Transgender Day of Remembrance
The following are the guiding principles that have been developed by the organizers of the Transgender Day of Remembrance that set the tone for the day.
- Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.
- All who die due to anti-transgender violence are to be remembered.
- It’s up to us to remember them, since their killers, law enforcement, and media often seek to erase their existence.
- We can make a difference by being visible, speaking out, educating and organizing around anti-transgender violence.
- Transgender lives are affirmed as valuable.
How to Get Involved in the Transgender Day of Remembrance
There are a number of ways in which people can lend their support to the movement and honor those that have been subjected to anti-transgender violence. There are vigils hosted by local transgender advocates or LGBTQ+ organizations, and are held at community centers, parks, churches, and more. Aside from vigils, the following are some ways in which you can lend your support:
- Discussion forums with activists, politicians, or school officials
- Poetry or spoken word readings
- Visual representation of the number of deaths
- Art and photography displays
- Movie screenings
- Trans 101 training for staff or any interested people
National Transgender Day of Remembrance is but one day and in order for acceptance to grow, it is important to continue the education after November 20th. This can be done in several ways that can address the bigger issues within a community and include:
- Adding gender identity and gender expression to school and work handbooks
- Campaigning for gender neutral bathrooms
- Educating your friends on how to be better trans allies
Once the day of remembrance is over, sit down and evaluate the successes and what improvements can be made and then make a plan for next year in order to lay the groundwork for a successful next Transgender Day of Remembrance.