Transgender Day of Remembrance is a good start, but not enough, say advocates: ‘We should be honored and protected while we’re still alive’

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Every year, Nov. 20 marks the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) — an observance honoring lives taken by acts of anti-transgender violence.

TDOR was started in 1999 by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith as a vigil to honor Rita Hester, a transgender woman killed in 1998. Transgender Awareness Week, the week leading up to Nov. 20, aims to be both a celebration of the progress transgender people have made and a way to highlight the work that remains to be done in the fight for equality and safety.

The Human Rights Campaign recently released a report detailing how 2021 was the deadliest year on record for transgender and gender non-conforming people since the group began tracking this data in 2013.

Since Jan. 1, the organization reports that 46 transgender people have been killed in the U.S. — of those 46 victims, 29 were Black and eight were Latinx.

Acknowledging what this community goes through and remembering those lives lost to violence should not be limited to just this week or just this day, say trans advocates. They also stress that it’s not every transgender person’s job to explain why they deserve protection.

As TikToker Javier succinctly explained to his 2,200-plus followers: “I don’t think this week is actually for us — I think it is made for cisgender people to feel better about themselves. They can say that they have celebrated Trans Awareness Week. They’ve posted some memes about us. They’ve said that they’ll protect us and that they’ll remember us, and then they’ll call it a day after that.”

But in the years since TDOR started, anti-transgender violence continues to rise. Social stigmas, a lack of federal laws prohibiting anti-trans discrimination and increasing anti-trans state laws affecting medical and sports-participation rights can counteract any effects of the awareness week.

“I want more than week,” Javier continued. “[But] at the same time, I don’t really want you to be ‘aware’ because being trans is dangerous sometimes and, also, it’s the least interesting thing about me.”

Part of what allies can do is take the time to look into trans and gender-diverse violence in the U.S. TikToker and therapist @slavik_gothic stressed the importance of allies doing their research.

“Being in this community will impact your mental health,” @slavik_gothic said on the platform about TDOR. “It is so important for allies — for everyone — to look out for one another … This community deserves our love and attention and respect, now more than ever.”

“[Instead of it being] the responsibility of trans people to talk about our issues, it should be the responsibility of cisgendered people to do the work on themselves about how they actually support trans people,” Javier said. “And not just the trans people you personally know — all trans people. Not just the trans people that ‘pass,’ not just the trans people in the binary … we should be honored and protected while we’re still alive.”

There will be virtual and in-person vigils that take place nationally on Nov. 20 — a reminder that, until violence against transgender and non-binary people stops, such individuals will also continue to face higher rates of discrimination, poverty and homelessness.

For this Transgender Day of Remembrance, we honor the 46 trans and nonbinary people who have been killed this year: Tyianna Alexander, Samuel Edmund Damián Valentín, Bianca “Muffin” Bankz, Dominique Jackson, Fifty Bandz, Alexus Braxton, Chyna Carrillo, siblings Jeffrey “JJ” Bright and Jasmine Cannady, Jenna Franks, Diamond Kyree Sanders, Rayanna Pardo, Jaida Peterson, Dominique Lucious, Remy Fennell, Tiara Banks, Natalia Smut, Iris Santos, Tiffany Thomas, Keri Washington, Jahaira DeAlto, Whispering Wind Bear Spirit, Sophie Vásquez, Danika “Danny” Henson, Serenity Hollis, Oliver “Ollie” Taylor, Thomas Hardin, Poe Black, EJ Boykin, Taya Ashton, Shai Vanderpump, Tierramarie Lewis, Miss CoCo, Pooh Johnson, Disaya Monaee, Briana Hamilton, Kiér Laprí Kartier, Mel Groves, Royal Poetical Starz, Zoella “Zoey” Rose Martinez, Jo Acker, Jessi Hart, Rikkey Outumuro, Marquiisha Lawrence and Jenny De Leon.

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