Transgender Day of Remembrance Resource Kit for Journalists | November 2012
The Transgender Day of Remembrance, which honors the memory of those murdered in acts of anti-transgender violence, is recognized annually on November 20. GLAAD encourages journalists to mark the occasion with stories about the pervasive problem of violence against transgender people, as well as the diversity and resilience of the community in the face of harassment and violence. Local observances may vary, so be sure to check with a local transgender organization, LGBT Center, Gay-Straight Alliance or other support group likely to be participating. For more information about the Transgender Day of Remembrance, visit www.glaad.org/tdor.
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. She passed away from cardiac arrest only moments after being admitted. Thirteen years later, police have still not found Rita’s murderer (or murderers).
In 1999, one year after Rita’s murder, advocate and writer Gwendolyn Ann Smith coordinated a vigil in Rita’s honor. The vigil commemorated not only Rita, but all who were tragically lost to anti-transgender violence.
In addition to the vigil, Smith launched the Transgender Day of Remembrance website to recognize and remember those whose lives have been lost to anti-transgender violence. The number of those honored on the site has since grown to more than 327 people in the United States alone, with over 300 more from other countries. Organizations throughout the world — from Groupe Activiste Trans in Paris to Human Rights Commission of Tel Aviv in Israel to Diritti in Movimiento in Pescara, Italy — have since taken to recognizing the day. Media coverage of Transgender Day of Remembrance often includes documenting lives lost to violence, as well as the all too frequent dehumanizing harassment and discrimination that members of the transgender community encounter on a regular basis.
Violence toward Members of the Transgender Community
The 2011 Hate Violence Report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Projects shows anti-LGBT hate crime murders increased 11% from 2010, in which 27 murders occurred, to 2011, in which 30 murders occurred. Of the victims murdered, 87% were people of color, and 40% were transgender women. Transgender people of color were also 28% more likely to experience physical violence compared to people who were not transgender people of color. Findings from the 'Injustice at Every Turn' report conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force showed alarming rates of violence and harassment expreienced by the more than 6,000 transgender repondents across a variety of contexts, including educational settings, at work, in interactions with police and with family members, at homeless shelters, accessing public accommodations, and in jails and prisons. According to the International Transgender Day of Remembrance website, there have been 8 people murdered out of anti-transgender bias during 2011 in the U.S. As murders of transgender people often go unreported, and the identity of transgender murder victims is often misreported, there is no way to know accurate numbers.
At this time, 14 states, the District of Columbia and more than 125 municipalities offer hate crimes protections that are inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity. After its signing in October 2009, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act has made it a federal hate crime to assault an individual based on actual or perceived disability, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity. This landmark legislation both mandates that the FBI track hate crimes based on anti-transgender bias and allows the Justice Department to assist in the prosecution of local hate crimes based on gender identity.
This year the cycle of violence against transgender and gender non-conforming people claimed at least twelve lives nationally, including:
- Paige Clay, 23 (Chicago, IL) who was discovered with a gunshot wound to the head in April
- Kendall Hampton, 26, (Cincinatti, OH) who was shot and killed in parking lot in August
- Tiffany Gooden, 19, (Chicago, IL) who was stabbed to death in a vacant building in August
- Kyra Kruz, 27, (Philadelphia, PA) who was found with a gunshot wound to the head on Labor Day
These are only some of the names of those whose murders have been reported, and many more incidences of murder and violcne against transgender people go unreported. For more stories of people who have lost their lives to anti-transgender hate violence, visit www.transgenderdor.org.
Story Ideas for Transgender Day of Remembrance
- Call attention to local victims of anti-transgender violence.
- Highlight positive stories of transgender individuals, and the dehumanizing discrimination they have faced in their lives. Highlight statistics from the ‘Injustice at Every Turn’ report on anti-transgender discrimination. Remind your audience that dehumanization often leads to violence.
- Anti-transgender violence isn’t just directed at adults. Statistics from the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) show that in schools, 16.8% of transgender students report being physically assaulted as a result of gender expression, while 32.1% experience physical harassment. Talk with transgender youth about their experiences growing up.
- Contact local LGBT organizations to find out how they plan to observe the Transgender Day of Remembrance. Many universities and high schools, through their Gay-Straight Alliances and other organizations, hold candlelight vigils or other events to recognize the day.
- Produce a feature on local individuals or organizations that are coordinating Transgender Day of Remembrance events and include information about how survivors of violence continue to be active in their communities.
- Follow-up on unsolved local cases of transgender violence or murder to show where the investigation stands.
- Spotlight stories of tragedies that inspired a community response against anti-transgender violence and discrimination. These stories of mobilized community responses to violence often go unreported but can be inspiring on this day of mourning.
Events to Look For
Though candlelight vigils are the most common way that local communities recognize the Transgender Day of Remembrance, events may also include:
- Forums and panel discussions with local advocates
- Poetry or spoken word readings
- Art exhibits
- Movie screenings of feature films or documentaries that include transgender characters or subjects
- Representations of the number of transgender people murdered, such as tombstone cutouts, memorials with photographs, or chalk outlines
Connect with local LGBT organizations for a complete listing of events being held throughout your community. View a list of local events. By seeking out such events, you will have an opportunity to connect with local advocates.
Fair, Accurate and Inclusive Coverage
Journalism is key to increasing public awareness and understanding of transgender people and events. Opposing viewpoints on complex issues are, of course, vital to good journalism. However, there is a difference between opposing viewpoints and defamatory rhetoric that exists solely to fuel harassment and discrimination. If opposing viewpoints are necessary for a particular news story on the Transgender Day of Remembrance, please contact organizations or individuals who have a clear stake in the issue from both sides and pair them appropriately.
Sensationalizing anti-transgender violence is disrespectful and degrading to both the victim and the victim’s family, and may bias an investigation. Sensitivity to appropriate pronouns, as well as the victim’s chosen name, which may be different from the name on that person's legal identification documents, is vital to accurate coverage. When reporting on the life of transgender person lost to violence, seek information from those close to the victim, and not bystanders or neighbors who have no relationship to your subject. Misrepresenting or making jokes about the victim’s gender identity sends the message that it is acceptable to demean transgender people. Articles such as the New York Post’s August 2011 article “Fireman busted after violently 'beating' tr*nny pal” make light of violence against the transgender community and further dehumanize the victims of this violence.
Like many hate crimes, gender identity-based violence often goes unreported, or is misrepresented due to errors in identifying a victim's gender identity. Include news reports of hate crimes against transgender Americans and other people signaled out for their gender identity and presentation in your coverage.
While this day is a day of mourning and remembrance, it is also a day to reflect on contributions to the community and the power of survival. While commemorating those lost to anti-transgender violence, please also detail the contributions of living transgender people. By highlighting these stories, you will undo some of the dehumanization that has taken place in the media, and in society.
Further transgender-related terminology and explanations can also be found in GLAAD’s Media Reference Guide as well as the Associated Press Stylebook. View the Associated Press Stylebook at the AP Stylebook Web site or view GLAAD’s Transgender Glossary of Terms.
Terminology & Identification
The following guidelines will assist you as you move forward in writing stories about transgender people. Issues surrounding the coverage of transgender people can be complex and sensitive — the utmost care should be taken to avoid defamatory or offensive language in your coverage. More information on defamatory terminology can be found in the Transgender Terminology chapter of the GLAAD Media Reference Guide.
Transgender is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. The term may include, but is not limited to transsexuals, cross-dressers and other gender non-conforming people. Use the term preferred by the individual. Transgender people may or may not pursue hormone therapy or surgery.
Gender identity is one’s internal, personal sense of their gender. For transgender people, their birth-assigned gender and their own internal sense of gender identity are not the same.
Sexual orientation describes an individual’s enduring physical, romantic, emotional and/or spiritual attraction to another person. Transgender people can be heterosexual, lesbian, gay or bisexual.
Transsexual is an older term, popularized through medical use and sensational media coverage during the 1950s-60s. Many transgender people prefer the term “transgender” to transsexual, while some transsexual people prefer to use the term to describe themselves. Unlike transgender, transsexual is not an umbrella term, as many transgender people do not identify as transsexual.
Transition includes some or all of the following cultural, legal and medical adjustments: telling one’s family, friends and/or co-workers; changing one’s name and/or sex on legal documents; hormone therapy; and possibly (though not always) some form of surgery.
Identifying a Transgender Person
- Always use a transgender person’s correct name. The correct name for a transgender person is the name that the person goes by. Often transgender people cannot afford a legal name change or are not yet old enough to change their name legally. They should be afforded the same respect for their chosen name as anyone else who lives by a name other than the name they were assigned at birth.
- Ask transgender people which pronoun they would like you to use if you are unsure. A person who identifies as a certain gender, whether or not they have taken hormones or had surgery, should be referred to using the pronouns appropriate for that gender.
- It is never appropriate to put quotation marks around either a transgender person’s chosen name or the pronoun that reflects that person’s gender identity.
International Transgender Day of Remembrance:
Gay-Straight Alliance Network Remembrance site:
National Center for Transgender Equality:
Transgender Law Center:
Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition:
National Center for Transgender Equality
Mara Keisling, Executive Director
Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund
Michael Silverman, Executive Director
National Gay & Lesbian TaskForce – Transgender Civil Rights Project
Transgender Law Center
(415) 865-0176 x301
Ethan St. Pierre
New York City Anti-Violence Project
(212) 714-1184 (office)
Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN)
TransYouth Family Allies
National Association of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Centers
Reports on Hate Violence and Discrimination
Anti-Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Violence in 2010 (NCAVP)
Anti-Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Violence in 2009 (NCAVP)
Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey (National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality)
Stonewalled: Police Abuse and Misconduct Against Lesbian, Gay and Transgender People in the U.S. (Amnesty International)
Special Intelligence Report on Hate Crimes Against Transgender and Transsexual Women (Southern Poverty Law Center)
A Chronology of Hate Crimes: 1998-2002 (Human Rights Campaign)
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