Transgender Day of Remembrance recognizes lost lives, living strength

Abigail Eck, Opinions Editor

Campus Ministry hosted a chapel service on Friday, Nov. 16 titled “Co-creating with God: A Chapel Service of Affirmation and Solidarity for Trans, Non-Binary, and Gender-Diversity in Church and Society.” This stems from efforts of Campus Ministry to better connect with queer groups on campus. “Anti-trans violence, and the fears that often motivate such violence, can stem from religious sources,” Ole Schenk, a member of Augsburg’s Campus Ministry staff says.

“Trans, non-binary and gender-diverse persons are witnessing to their lived experience in churches and theological schools the re-interpretion of gender and creation in ways that help renew our understandings. These interpretations enable those of us in Christian faith to become better allies and prevent anti-trans violence.”

Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) is an annual observance on Nov. 20 of the lives that have been lost to anti-transgender violence. An important time for the LGBTQIA+ community, this is a day used to honor lives lost through vigils and memories, offering hope and fortitude in the face of everyday struggles in the queer community.

TDOR is a remembrance of the names and identities of this year’s victims to anti-transgender violence. According to the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), TDOR began in 1999 “by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith as a vigil to honor the memory of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was killed in 1998.” This day is also preceded by Transgender Awareness week, which runs from Nov. 12–19.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, “41 percent of trans respondents to the national transgender discrimination survey said that they had attempted suicide at some point in their lives — a percentage that is more than 25 times higher than the general population.” In a nation where 4.1 million adults identify as transgender, this is a staggering percentage. Furthermore, at least 29 trans people were murdered in the U.S. in 2017, up from 23 in 2016. 2018 is currently at 22, but it might actually be higher; there have been cases of authorities recording murders with incorrect names and genders, and this number also doesn’t include those that have died from suicide.

In light of this information, it is clear that this day of remembrance is time for campus solidity. “[TDOR] acknowledges those individuals whose lives have been lost due to transphobic violence and to raise awareness of the need to intentionally support trans, nonbinary, intersex and gender non-conforming communities,” says Michael Grewe, Director of LGBTQIA+ student services. “There are thousands of vigils held across the world to memorialize those that have been lost the past year.”

As such, campus groups QPA, QIPOC, SMART, Campus Ministry and the LGBTQIA+ services offices tabled and hosted a vigil at 8 p.m. in the quad the night of the 20th.

In the words of TDOR founder Gwendolyn Ann Smith, “The 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 important that those we lose are remembered, and that we continue to fight for justice.” The fight for transgender rights has seen a push for the expansion of supportive legislation and recognition. TDOR is an event for all, living and dead, in remembrance of those lost and in a continued fight for those living.

This article was originally published in the Nov. 30, 2018 issue. 

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