Cavyn Mitchell (He/They) writes about the importance of Transgender Day of Remembrance
The 20th November marks the day that transgender individuals come together as a global community to commemorate the lives lost within the community to acts of anti-trans violence.
What is Transgender Day of Remembrance?
Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) is an annual event which is observed annually on the 20th November and honours transgender and gender diverse individuals who have lost their lives in acts of transphobic violence. Transgender and gender diverse individuals deserve to feel safe and valued in their communities and society.
TDOR was founded in 1999, by Gwendoline Ann Smith to commemorate the life of and death of Rita Hester, a black trans woman murdered in Boston (Stonewall, 2019). Trans Day of Remembrance is an important date in the calendar for many trans individuals who face daily issues around inclusivity and anti-trans sentiments and violence.
Globally events such as vigils, demonstrations, events and the raising of awareness online and in the media highlights the transphobia and anti-trans sentiments that are felt within the transgender community. It is important to highlight these issues and provoke trans empowerment and social change.
Why does TDoR matter?
Each year the death toll rises, globally this year, 337 transgender individuals have lost their lives due to anti-transgender violence with an additional 49 transgender people dying by suicide (Reports – TDoR, 2022). Whilst this number is shocking, the question of whether it is truly representative is unknown, although it is known that reporting, particularly within transphobic geographical locations often underreports violence against transgender individuals. There is also the issue that that transgender individuals who are not supported by their family are disrespected by being buried under the wrong name and/or wrong gender; and erased by the media. For example, Cherry Valentine (the drag queen who used she/they pronouns) died earlier this year and whilst they were not murdered and therefore not included in the TDoR stats for this year, they were consistently misgendered by both media and family.
It is important to note that the majority of trans murders and acts of violence are committed against trans women of colour and sex workers as they are often the most visible within society. The stigma and violence that trans women face is linked to the wider issue of women’s safety within society as women as a whole category face a higher risk of violence from cismen, particularly within the home (Stonewall, 2019).
TDoR matters as it gives the transgender and gender diverse community an opportunity to remember those who have been lost and also come together in acts of solidarity to support one another.
The raising of public awareness of transgender issues within wider society is an important aspect of TDoR which is not often discussed or highlighted in the media.
Above all, TDoR is an expression of love, support and solidarity both for and within the transgender and gender diverse community. It is an act of resilience, visibility and representation of a group often marginalised, alienated and erased.
Transgender people exist, are valid within their gender expressions and embodiments and deserve love and joy.
How can we be more inclusive to transgender individuals?
Transgender allies (cisgender individuals who support transgender individuals), are important, in a number of ways. This can be through speaking out in support of trans rights and for transgender individuals; advocating for language changes, particularly for overly gendered language and spaces; and learning about policies that affect transgender individuals. These are just some of the ways that allies can help support transgender and gender diverse individuals.
Some easy tips to be more inclusive and supportive of transgender individuals include:
Understanding the diversity within the transgender community – there are many transgender and gender diverse identities and expressions, the expectation of two transgender individuals identifying exactly the same way or expressing gender in the same way is a myth.
Asking pronouns – if you are unsure how to refer to someone, just ask! Transgender people are often happy when you ask their pronouns, particularly if they use neopronouns which are less known outside of the trans community.
Being sensitive about questions you ask – think about how you would feel if you were asked a question before you ask a trans person. Questions about ‘real names’, ‘original gender’ or ‘genitals’ (to name a few) are incredibly inappropriate.
Listen and respect – if you listen to transgender people and take time to learn trans issues and experiences/identities this will help you become more inclusive and a trans ally. It is important to remember that you do not always have to understand someone’s identity to respect them or to use the right pronouns (even if you have not heard of them before).
Reports – TDOR 2022 (2022) Remembering Our Dead. Available at: https://tdor.translivesmatter.info/reports?from=2021-10-01&to=2022-09-30&country=all&category=all&view=list&filter= (Accessed: November 12, 2022).
Stonewall (2019) Trans Day of Remembrance: What is it and why is it needed?, Stonewall. Available at: https://www.stonewall.org.uk/about-us/news/trans-day-remembrance-what-it-and-why-it-needed (Accessed: November 12, 2022).