An Introduction to the Transgender Day of Remembrance

The Transgender Day of Remembrance will be observed this Thursday, Nov 20. To commemorate the day, GLAAD will be blogging about issues relevant to the Day of Remembrance throughout the week. This first post is an introduction to the Transgender Day of Remembrance.

This Thursday, people around the world will be commemorating the Transgender Day of Remembrance.

The Day of Remembrance honors the memory of those murdered because of anti-transgender prejudice. During 2008, we have lost at least 16 transgender people nationally according to the Web site International Transgender Day of Remembrance.

Participants at a Transgender Day of Remembrance Vigil. Photo by Peter Strong.

Participants at a Transgender Day of Remembrance Vigil. Photo by Peter Strong.

The Transgender Day of Remembrance is observed in late November in recognition of the 1998 murder of Rita Hester. Rita was a highly visible member of the transgender community in her native Boston, where she worked locally on education around transgender issues.

On Saturday, Nov 28, Rita was stabbed 20 times in her apartment. A neighbor called the police and Rita was rushed to the hospital, but passed away from cardiac arrest only moments after being admitted. Ten years later, Rita's murderer (or murderers) has still not been found.

In 1999 advocate and writer Gwendolyn Ann Smith coordinated a vigil that commemorated not only Rita, but also all the transgender people lost to violence and hatred. In addition to the vigil, Smith launched the Web site Remembering Our Dead to recognize those whose lives have been lost to anti-transgender violence. The number of dead honored on the site has since grown to more than 280 people.

Candlelight vigils like the one in 1999 are still the most common way that communities recognize the Transgender Day of Remembrance. Over time, communities have begun to mark the day in different ways including creating public art such as tombstones or shrines commemorating the dead.

Other events include marches, poetry and spoken word events, forums with local advocates, or movie screenings. The International Transgender Day of Remembrance website has a list of some local events here.

GLAAD is encouraging journalists to mark the occasion with stories about the pervasive problem of hate crimes against transgender people, as well as the diversity and resilience of the community in the face of harassment and violence. To find out more, you can view our 2008 Transgender Day of Remembrance Resource Kit.

Media coverage of Transgender Day of Remembrance events often includes documenting lives lost to hate crimes, as well as the routine harassment, discrimination and violence that members of the transgender community encounter on a regular basis.

For more stories of transgender people who have lost their lives to hate violence, visit the Remembering Our Dead web site. Also, please refer to GLAAD's Resource Kit for reports on hate crimes, media contacts, and information on how to fairly and accurately report on transgender people and issues.