An Introduction to Transgender Day of Remembrance 2009

People around the world will be observing the eleventh annual Transgender Day of Remembrance this Friday, Nov 20.  To commemorate the day, GLAAD and our guest bloggers will be writing about issues relevant to the Day of Remembrance throughout the week. Check the National News section of GLAADblog frequently to view the series of guest contributions.

Trsz_tdorcandlevigil_widerhis Friday marks the annual observance of the Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day reserved to honor the lives lost to anti-transgender prejudice and violence.  Individuals and communities observe the Transgender Day of Remembrance in many different ways.  There is always a mix of silent personal reflections, vocal community demonstrations, remembering the loss and pain of the past year, and looking forward to make the next years safer for all transgender and gender non-conforming people.

The Transgender Day of Remembrance originated as a local response to the brutal murder of Rita Hester, a highly visible transgender woman and community-educator in Boston in 1998.  Rita was stabbed 20 times in her apartment on Saturday, Nov 28th.  Police rushed her to the hospital, but she went into cardiac arrest and could not be revived.  Rita’s murderer(s) have still not been found.

This tragedy, so similar to previous attacks on transgender communities, inspired Gwendolyn Ann Smith to coordinate a vigil in 1999, which became the first Transgender Day of Remembrance event.  To record the names of those lost to anti-transgender violence, Smith also launched the Remembering Our Dead project, which is kept updated to this day at www.transgenderdor.org.  The list of victims honored on the site has grown to just over 300.

Candlelight vigils, rallies, public actions, and events at local community centers will be taking place across the country (and internationally) on Friday the 20th.  For a comprehensive listing of events and locations visit www.transgenderdor.org.  GLAAD is encouraging journalists to highlight the Day of Remembrance with stories about the pervasive violence, discrimination, and prejudice transgender and gender non-conforming people face in our society.  We also encourage stories highlighting the diversity and resilience of the community in the face of such hardship and the victories they have won.

This year’s Transgender Day of Remembrance may have cause for more optimism than in the past with the historic passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law on October 28th.  This bill is the first piece of federal legislation to include protections for transgender Americans, and it sends a strong message that targeting transgender people for violence is never okay.

For more story ideas and reports on hate violence, you can view our 2009 Transgender Day of Remembrance Journalist Resource Kit.

Please join GLAAD as we dedicate this week’s blogs to remembering those lost to anti-transgender violence and to exploring what the Transgender Day of Remembrance means to those working for change.