Gwendolyn Ann Smith’s idea for the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) originally stemmed from the 1998 death of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who had been killed in Massachusetts. Smith was struck by the similarities of had happened to Hester and the murder of another transgender woman, Chanelle Pickett, just three years prior – and how no one she spoke with seemed to remember Pickett. The first vigil commemorated all the transgender people that were lost to violence that year and began an important tradition that has become the annual TDOR.
GLAAD worked with Gwendolyn to help her stell her story about the creation of TDOR, The Huffington Post. Smith’s piece (Transgender Day of Remembrance: Why We Remember) can be viewed in full on the Huffington Post.
In 1999, a handful of transgender people sought to highlight the need for awareness around anti-transgender violence, which refers to attacks against people who are perceived as transgender -- regardless of how one may personally identify. To that end, we held the first Transgender Day of Remembrance event in the Castro district of San Francisco, holding the names of those we'd lost in silent testimony.
That was 13 years ago. Today, Transgender Day of Remembrance will be presented in the United States and Canada, Australia, Poland, Russia, the Philippines, South Korea and many other locations across the Earth. The notion of remembering our dead reaches into places that those few who gathered in 1999 could hardly have envisioned.
We've seen an increase in legislation that helps prosecute those who participate in anti-transgender violence, including the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. We've seen a much greater awareness of the issue of anti-transgender violence. We've seen successes in other battles for transgender rights.
Yet we still see anti-transgender violence. Every year, we still find ourselves with a list of people who have been violently murdered for simply being themselves.
The Transgender Day of Remembrance is not an event for fundraisers and beer busts. It's not an event we "celebrate." It is not a quick and easy one-day way for organizations to get credit for their support of the transgender community. It's not something to trot out on the 20th of November and forget about. We should be working every day for all of us, living and dead.
GLAAD commends the Huffington Post for elevating this important story and for continuing to talk about the daily challenges facing the transgender community.