Recognizing Transgender Day of Remembrance

Recognizing Transgender Day of Remembrance

By Jieun Paik, Staff Writer

Since its first observance in 1999, Transgender Day of Remembrance has been celebrated every November 20. Not to be mistaken with Transgender Visibility Day (celebrated March 31), its goal is to remember victims of anti-transgender hate crimes. It was created in response to the murder of Rita Hester, a black trans woman in Massachusetts.

On November 28, 1998, Hester was found dying in her Boston apartment after being stabbed to death. Though authorities brought her to the hospital breathing, she passed away an hour later due to cardiac arrest. The murderer was never identified and still remains to be unknown 2 decades later. Hester was an outspoken member of the transgender community and her death sparked a vigil that later became an annual occurrence.

Transgender Day of Remembrance was started in 1999 by activist Gwendolyn Ann Smith as a vigil to honor Rita Hester. The event remembers the names and stories of trans people who have been lost to violence and transphobia. In discussing Rita Hester’s murder, she also started the Remembering Our Dead web project, which is a database of transgender people who have passed away due to anti-transgender hate crimes.

“You know, the more that people see who we are, what we are, the more they talk with us, the more they experience our existence. The harder it becomes to say, well, there’s this scary thing out there that people should be afraid of,” said Gwendolyn Ann Smith to Vogue.

The vigil is held both in person and virtually all around the world. It is a time for mourning and remembrance, but it is also a time to come together and uplift a community. The day is dedicated to the reality of living as a transgender or gender-nonconforming person.

“Our actions today dictate what our future looks like. So by setting an example to the younger generations by oppressing and belittling people through blatant transphobia, we’re normalizing behavior and perpetuating these beliefs,” said Lara Ergen, a sophomore at Hills.

Transgender Day of Remembrance honors the memory of those who were victims of anti-transgender violence. By honoring their memory, it also educates and opens up the conversation about what action can be taken so that these violent crimes are never committed again.