Today is the 13th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance. The event, which is observed internationally, was founded in the wake of the 1998 murder of Rita Hester, a trans woman of color. It’s is a day to honor the memories of thousands of people who have lost their lives simply for having the courage to be themselves— victims of pointless and horrific transphobic violence. It’s a time for reflection—both on the how far the trans* community has come in its pursuit of equality and also on how far we have to go before social justice for trans* people becomes reality. Even in 2011, trans* people are routinely attacked, bullied, harassed, and ridiculed, and discriminated against in schools and at work. According a report by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, transgender women accounted for nearly half of all anti-LGBT murders last year. Trans women of color, in particular those who are attracted to men, are especially at risk. Despite all this, many people still find it appropriate to question whether trans* people should be legally protected, including at my alma mater.
Eliminating anti-trans* violence isn’t something that can be achieved by changing discrimination laws, although it’s a step in the right direction. Today is a reminder that we all must take responsibility for combating transphobia. It’s about making our voices heard and taking a stand against bigotry and hatred. It’s about creating a future in which the next generation of trans* kids can feel safe and proud of who they are.
Until then, we must honor our dead. Please feel free to share your stories and feelings in the comments section below.