Transgender Day of Remembrance

Transgender Day of Remembrance

November 17, 2023 | Evident Change

A graphic with candles in the colors of the transgender pride flag (light blue and pink) and the words "Transgender day of remembrance, Nov. 20.

As we come together to observe Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR), we remember transgender individuals whose lives were taken too soon through hateful acts of violence. TDoR, which is observed annually on November 20, honors their memories and recognizes the ongoing struggle for transgender rights and acceptance.

Transgender is an umbrella term for persons whose gender identity or expression differs from their sex assigned at birth.

TDoR was founded by Gwendolyn Ann Smith, a transgender woman, in 1999 to honor the life of Rita Hester. Hester, a Black trans woman who was murdered in 1998, sparked a movement that united not only a community but an entire country to fight for human rights of transgender individuals. This pivotal moment brought awareness to the senseless hatred and violence perpetuated against the trans community and the need to create a space where all feel a sense of safety and belonging.

Pictured from left to right: Gwendolyn Ann Smith and Rita Hester

Candlelight vigils are one way to commemorate TDoR and honor those who lost their lives that year. During the event, the names of the victims are read aloud.

Statistics indicate that transgender individuals are 2.5 times more likely than cisgender individuals to be victims of violent crimes. Furthermore, transgender women of color are even more likely to experience anti-trans violence.

Monica Helms, a trans woman and activist, designed the first transgender pride flag in 1999. It was shown the following year in Phoenix, Arizona. The flag consists of five horizontal stripes: blue to represent trans men and transmasculine people; pink to represent trans women and transfeminine people; and white to represent people who are transitioning, nonbinary, or intersex.

As efforts continue to challenge and shift US culture to acknowledge and promote a safe, inclusive, and equitable society for all regardless of gender identity, data show that hate crimes against the LGBTQ+ community and anti-transgender policies and laws are still rising. Exclusionary practices affecting the transgender community include bans that restrict many transgender individuals from accessing critical medical care within their community or in another state.

The call to action begins with recognizing the existence of transphobia, followed by taking a stance against cultural and systemic barriers that deny transgender individuals their human rights to exist, live safely within communities, and navigate systems such as employment, education, and health care. Standing up against transphobia and anti-transgender practices and policies not only gives visibility to the multifaceted issues but moves us toward creating a more inclusive community and preventing future violence. Let’s educate ourselves about the social and systemic challenges that the transgender community faces and advocate alongside them for more equitable and inclusive social systems and communities.