Transgender Day of Remembrance Honors Lost Lives

Ashley Kronebusch, staff writer

Despite the freezing temperatures and harsh winds, dozens of students gathered in the Quad on the evening of Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR). At this event every Nov. 20, the LGBTQIA+ community and its allies come together to remember those who have died from anti-transgender violence.

The candlelight vigil started with an introduction by Max Poessnecker, director of LGBTQIA+ student services on campus. This was followed with a prayer lead by Pastor Justin Lind-Ayres from Campus Ministry. The atmosphere was somber and introspective, as a list of names of many transgender people who have been murdered in the past year was passed around the circle.

Each person read out a page or two, citing names along with their age and the date and place of passing. The list contained 331 names, all of which hung heavy in the cold air. The many names that were unknown felt especially heavy. It was heartbreaking that on this day of remembrance, we could not even recognize the names of everyone we had lost. Ages of those deceased ranged greatly, from as young as 14 years old. 22 of the names were from the United States.

Despite the hectic and rushed nature of life as a college student, those attending felt it was important to take time to slow down and honor those that we have lost as a result of transphobic violence. “Transgender Day of Remembrance is a day of reflecting many aspects of life,” said Yaya Flores, Co-President of the Queer Pride Alliance and Augsburg and a student organizer for the event. “In regards to the trans community, in which we need to show our support and actively be there for our trans and non-binary siblings… It was a heavy day with high emotions and thoughts.”

TDOR was started in 1999 by Gwendolyn Ann Smith to honor transgender educator Rita Hester, a black trans woman who was murdered the previous year in Massachusetts. It has been recognized yearly since to bring attention to the horrific violence that transgender people face. Transgender women of color are at the highest risk for this violence. According to the 2014 Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and HIV-affected Hate Violence Report, 50% of transgender people murdered are women of color.

TDOR was especially personal for Flores.“What was heavy about it for me was that the majority of those murdered happened in Latin America, especially from the state I was born in Mexico,” said Flores. “transphobia in the Latinx community is prominent and femicide is ever so increasing.”

Once all 331 names had been read off, a few of the gathered people shared the names of transgender people close to them who they had lost. The feeling was unanimous: nobody wanted to have to recognize this day. But until we live in a world where transgender people do not face terrible violence, we will come back year after year to remember our transgender siblings who have been taken from us too early.