As the culmination of Transgender Awareness Week, transgender and non-binary New Yorkers and their allies will mark Transgender Day of Remembrance in events across the city on November 19 and 20.
TDOR began in 1999, when trans advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith organized a vigil in memory of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who had been murdered in Boston the year before. Though Smith lived in San Francisco and had not known Hester, she had read about the anger in Boston’s trans community over media reporting that had misgendered the dead woman.
Smith began an online project called Remembering Our Dead to chronicle the history of transgender people whose murders went little noticed or incorrectly reported. The vigil she organized in San Francisco on November 20, 1999 became the first Transgender Day Remembrance, now marked worldwide annually.
Smith explained, “The Transgender Day of Remembrance seeks to highlight the losses we face due to anti-transgender bigotry and violence. I am no stranger to the need to fight for our rights, and the right to simply exist is first and foremost. With so many seeking to erase transgender people — sometimes in the most brutal ways possible — it is vitally important that those we lose are remembered, and that we continue to fight for justice.”
This year’s Transgender Day of Remembrance comes in the wake of news reports that at least 27 transgender Americans, most of them women of color, have been murdered this year. According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, in 2017, that coalition’s member groups nationwide documented 52 murders motivated by anti-LGBTQ hate. In 27 of those cases, the victims were transgender; in 22, trans women of color.
Worldwide data on the murder of transgender people can be found at https://tdor.info.
This year’s commemoration also comes after nearly two years in which the Trump administration has escalated its attacks on the rights of transgender Americans. Early in the administration, officials moved against the rights of trans school students to access bathroom and locker room facilities appropriate to their gender and the ability of transgender adults to serve in the military. Last month, the New York Times reported on deliberations within the administration to adopt a legal definition of gender as never-changing and determined at birth by external genitalia. That report sparked nationwide protests animated by the hashtag #WontBeErased.
In New York, Transgender Day of Remembrance vigils kick off on Monday, November 19, when the Audre Lorde Project and its TransJustice initiative host an evening of conversations and performances to “in memoriam of those who have passed, but are not forgotten, in our communities.”
A release from those groups stated, “In our current political climate, it is more important than ever to honor the work and resilient legacies of community members who fought, and are fighting, tirelessly for self-determination and survival in the face of overbearing violence and structural oppression. On this day, we confront erasure by honoring their work and lives.”
The Audre Lorde event takes place at St. John’s Lutheran Church at 81 Christopher Street, between Seventh Avenue South and Bleecker Street, from 6-9 pm.
The following evening, November 20, the LGBTQ Community Center hosts a commemoration and dinner at 208 West 13th Street, from 6:30 to 9 p.m.
In the early evening on November 20, the media company Mic hosts a forum on Transgender Day of Remembrance. Its correspondent Serena Daniari will be joined by Chase Strangio, a transgender rights attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, trans model Chella Man, Joanna Cifredo, who hosts the “Trans Specific Partnership Podcast,” and Imara Jones, creator of “TransLash,” a four-part web docuseries, and a Fellow-in-Residence at the New York Women’s Foundation.
The event, at Mic’s offices on the 82nd floor of One World Trade Center, is free but space is limited, so registration is required here.
On Staten Island, the borough’s Pride Center hosts a memorial, movie, and open mic from 6:15 to 9:15 p.m. The Pride Center is on the third floor at 25 Victory Boulevard at Bay Street.