Leslie McMurray | Transgender Education and Advocacy Associate
Every year in November, the transgender community comes together to mourn our dead – Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) is observed every year on or around November 20.
The history of the day can be traced back to 1998 when a trans woman named Rita Hester was murdered near Boston. Her friend, Gwendolyn Ann Smith wanted to keep her memory alive. Rita was by no means the first trans person to die at the hands of another, and as history has shown, she is certainly not the last.
The day is often about numbers, but numbers don’t begin to tell the story. Last year saw a “record” of at least 350 trans and nonbinary people murdered worldwide. 44 of them, here in the United States…also a record.
2021 has been a particularly brutal year for us – It bothers me hearing the list of those murdered as being a “record.” It makes it sound like a challenge. I’d prefer it stand forever unbroken. It sickens me every time I hear of another one of my sisters or brothers losing their life way too soon – and for what?
Church shootings of Christians and people run down in New York are national news. Transgender people being relentlessly and senselessly murdered makes not a blip.
The transgender community has little to celebrate. While we have seen progress in employment rights from last year’s Supreme Court ruling (Bostock v. Clayton County, GA) We have seen bitter division in the Texas Legislature ultimately producing a law, signed by Governor Abbott that will prohibit trans girls from competing on their school sports teams. The damage of laws like this reach far beyond the playing field. They are damaging psychologically to trans girls who are recognized in every aspect of their life as a girl, until she steps on a soccer field or gymnasium, then she’s a boy? Really?
Legislative debates where trans people are repeatedly described as a “problem” don’t make the world a safer place for us. It makes things worse. Transgender lives must have value – people don’t murder things they value.
What brings us together each year is a day to remember those in our community who have been murdered.
I went to my first TDOR (Transgender Day of Remembrance) at Cathedral of Hope in 2013. It was beautiful and it was heartbreaking. We remembered those who were murdered in an emotionally wrenching way. As someone read the names of the victims and where in the world they were killed and the details of their murder, there were a group of us who would carry a rose in their name up the center aisle of the sanctuary and lay it on the altar.
Name after name, rose after rose and grisly violent detail – the roses piled up. Until there were well over 300 of them. I was sobbing after the first few names and by the end I couldn’t stop crying.
Why are they killing us?
Most of those killed are trans women of color. Being a woman of color in this country is hard enough, being a trans woman of color must feel like being a deer during hunting season.
Our lives mean something, they are important, they are worth living.
Being transgender anywhere in the world is a challenge. Worrying about someone ending our lives in a violent way is horrifying. Something else that struck me was how little we know about those who have been taken from us. Sure, we know their names and how and where they died but little else.
I bet some of these girls were good dancers. I bet some had pets that loved them. Maybe brothers or sisters. Maybe others were helping to take care of elderly parents. I’m certain that each of them was loved by someone.
Now, there is an empty spot in church, a dog that wonders when mommy is coming home, a mother who mourns the loss of a child. A smile or laugh that is gone forever. A best friend with an empty heart and a thousand-yard stare. My heart breaks for each of them.
A thought occurred to me that with the murder rate so high for trans people and when we are shot, stabbed, strangled, bludgeoned, dismembered or set on fire – besides the horrific details of our death, we are further insulted by often being misgendered by law enforcement or the media. Perhaps there is something we could do to change that a little. Instead of remembering how we died, how about remembering how we lived?
I’d just feel a little better if folks knew more about us. I have a transgender friend who is an air traffic controller, others are doctors, surgeons, airline pilots, teachers, university professors and business owners. Our lives are just as precious as anyone else’s. Just as worth living.
Please, no more mentions of another “record” year for transgender murder victims.
Please, stop killing us. We aren’t numbers, we aren’t statistics. We are living breathing precious miracles. People who have endured hardships that most can’t comprehend. We are loved and we love. We fought so hard just to be who we are. Can’t we just please live our lives?
We honor and remember the lives that were tragically taken away from us in 2021. Say their names:
Bianca “Muffin” Bankz
Danika “Danny” Henson
Oliver “Ollie” Taylor
Jeffrey “JJ” Bright
Diamond Kyree Sanders
Kiér Laprí Kartier
Royal Poetical Starz
Whispering Wind Bear Spirit
Zoella “Zoey” Rose Martinez