On Friday night, several members of GLAAD attended a special event hosted by the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center in New York City for the Transgender Day of Remembrance. The memorial attracted many members of the transgender community, allies, and families and friends of this year's victims.
Attendees gathered at the Center and began the night with a prayer led by Reverend Mary Foulke of St. Luke in the Fields -- an inclusive, local Episcopal church in Greenwich Village -- in the hopes of keeping in our memory those who passed due to transgender violence. Everyone then lit candles and glow sticks, and participated in a vigil and march around the neighborhood.
Participants reconvened afterwards at the Center for discussion about what the Transgender Day of Remembrance means to them. Cristina Herrera, the coordinator of the Center's Gender Identity Project, monitored the discussion and introduced various speakers. One of the first speakers was Melissa Sklarz, the first transgender person elected to New York political office in 1999 and the co-chair of the Board of Directors of the National Stonewall Democrats. She has worked with Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Patterson to increase transgender rights in New York at both the city and state levels, and spoke about the work still left to do. She highlighted the difference in media coverage between the death of Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi and that of Victoria Carmen White, who had been murdered in New Jersey just two weeks before. She criticized the media for consistently implying that Victoria was "really" a man, and not paying tribute to the way she lived her life.
Kimberly Reed, a New York filmmaker, spoke next. She reminisced about her transition almost 20 years ago, and focused on the positive experiences she has had since then. She encouraged us to take comfort in the fact that the Transgender Day of Remembrance is not just about the deaths of the past year, but the optimism that comes with commemorating the lives of transgender men and women, and educating others about transgender issues.
Representatives from the Queens Pride House, Queers for Economic Justice, the Center's Youth Enrichment Services (YES) program, and various other organizations discussed their work and encouraged listeners to get involved. Members of the New York City Police Department urged us to use them as a resource and to contact authorities in dangerous situations, regardless of our fears. They invited us to another event that took place this afternoon in the Bronx, at the site of the brutal beatings of three men in October.
The floor was also opened up to individual members of the community. Family and friends of Amanda González-Andujar mourned their loss, speaking about what a wonderful person she was, and expressing frustration with everyone who had not treated her with the love and respect she deserved. A friend of Victoria Carmen White spoke about her last-minute decision not to spend her Friday night at a club, but to come to this event and reflect on Victoria's memory. Other members of the community spoke about how they were affected by the murders, and offered inspiration for the future. Finally, the Center invited us to watch a slideshow with information about victims of transgender
violence from all around the world, and asked us to contribute to a Tree of Life by writing down the names of those who were on our minds during this time. Participants stayed for refreshments and a chance to talk more with each other about their experiences.
The event was hosted by the Center's Gender Identity Project (GIP), which provides regular services to the gender non-conforming community and its allies. "Through ... advocacy, outreach, education, and capacity-building, the GIP creates a safe and productive atmosphere for community-building, wellness and self-care, and leadership development," according to its mission. Groups for members of the trans-feminine spectrum and the trans-masculine spectrum are both hosted on Wednesday nights from 7:30 to 9 PM, to discuss thoughts and feelings about gender, trans-identities, personal growth and histories in a closed environment. There are also monthly support groups for family members, friends, and partners of transgender people.
The Center also hosts regular educational events, social mixers, trainings, support groups, and other resources for the rest of the LGBT community on a daily basis. It is located at 208 West 13th Street.
GLAAD thanks the Center for hosting such a meaningful event, and we encourage all our readers to attend services in their own communities, and to keep the victims of transgender violence in their thoughts on this important day.