It’s Transgender Day Of Remembrance: Let’s Celebrate Trans* Lives And Accomplishments

Today is the 15th annual International Transgender Day of Remembrance. This is the day where we come together to honor and remember all of the trans* people killed due to anti-trans* violence during the year. TDoR was started in memory of Rita Hester, a trans woman murdered in November 1998, as a memorial to trans women specifically. Sadly, more than a decade later, things are still extremely grim for trans* people both in the United States and abroad. According to Transgender Europe’s Trans Murder Monitoring project, 238 trans people were killed in the past year in cases of anti-trans violence. That’s one trans* person being murdered every day and a half. In the United States there were 16 cases of anti-trans* murders, one every 24 days. While these statistics include a wide range of trans* people, the truth remains that the vast majority of victims of anti-trans* violence are trans women, and specifically trans women of color, particularly black and latina TWOC (especially in Latin America). If you have a strong stomach, you can take a look at this list of trans* people who were murdered this year, but be careful, the list is very hard to read. It’s impossible not to cry when you see how many young people there are and how many of the causes of death are frighteningly violent.


On Transgender Day of Remembrance we want to honor all of the people who died. We want to make sure that they are not forgotten. One way to do this is to celebrate the lives of trans* people and appreciate those we still have with us. So today we’re presenting you a list of some of the awesome things that trans* people did this year and some of the victories that we’ve won.

This year saw the emergence of trans woman of color Janet Mock as one of the leading voices in transgender advocacy. Her book Redefining Realness comes out next February.

Thanks to the efforts of Calliope Wong and the college gender and sexuality advocacy group Q&A, Smith College put together a committee to address the fact that they wouldn’t admit a trans woman. Another women’s college, Simmons took it a step further, and actually admitted a trans woman as a student.

GLAAD made the announcement that they would be officially changing their name from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation to simply GLAAD in order to show their commitment to supporting transgender rights.

DC Comics introduced its most mainstream transgender character yet when Batgirl’s roommate Alysia Yeoh came out as trans in Batgirl #19. The same month in the Marvel universe, a young Moloid named Tong came out as a transgender girl in FF #6 (a comic about a replacement Fantastic Four). This means there are two transgender characters in regular mainstream comics.


The first annual Trans 100 list was set up to honor the work done by 100 diverse and hard-working trans* people.

In May, MMA fighter Fallon Fox won her first MMA fight after coming out as trans.

In June, elementary school student Coy Mathis showed the world how awesome she is and won a victory for trans* students everywhere when the Colorado courts ruled that she could use the proper bathrooms and facilities for a girl like herself.

Delaware passed a statewide Gender Identity Nondiscrimination Act, which protects trans* people from being fired or losing housing due to their gender identity with thanks to activist Sarah McBride.

via Equality Delaware

via Equality Delaware

Several cities including San Antonio and my hometown passed LGBT non-discrimination ordinances.

With the debut of the Netflix original series Orange is the New Black we saw the breakout success of transgender actress Laverne Cox. In a show filled with nuanced performances, Cox has gotten the highest praise for portrayal of transgender prisoner Sophia Burset.

Transgender advocates in Malaysia fought to get equal access for trans* people despite moves to undermine their efforts.

After coming out as trans last year, Laura Jane Grace and her band Against Me! released the True Trans EP.

via Spin

via Spin

For the first time, trans women started winning employment discrimination suits in front of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

In August, California became the first state to pass a law saying that transgender students will have access to the programs, athletics and facilities consistent with their gender.

Eli Erlick, an advocate for transgender student's rights in California via NY Daily News

Eli Erlick, an advocate for transgender student’s rights in California via NY Daily News

America’s Next Top Model had its second ever transgender model in 19 year-old Virgg.

The American Bar Association passed a resolution rejecting the use of the so-called “trans panic” defense for murder.

Alex McNeill became the first openly transgender leader of a mainline Protestant group when he was selected as the Executive Director of More Light Presbyterians, an organization that promotes the acceptance and inclusion of LGBTQ people in the Presbyterian Church.

Alex McNeill via Out of Order

Alex McNeill via Out of Order

Skylar, a 12 year old girl in Georgia, won her fight to be able to use the proper bathrooms at school.

The country’s largest federation of unions, the AFL-CIO added an amendment to its constitution that affirms that they will officially start to fight for workplace protections for trans* people.

Cassidy Lynn Campbell, a transgender teen at a California high school, was voted Homecoming Queen by her fellow students becoming the first transgender student to hold that title in her school’s history.

Transgender models including Nicole Gibson, Ines Rau and Arisce Wanzer exploded onto the fashion scene.

MAJOR!, a documentary exploring the life and work of trans woman of color trailblazer and Stonewall veteran Miss Major Griffin-Gracy reached its funding goal and won IndieWire’s Project of the Month in October.

Fashion designer Ari South returned to Project Runway after coming out as transgender during the three years between the seasons she competed on the show.

New Hampshire high schooler Ray Ramsey was elected Homecoming King by a landslide by his fellow students.

British trans* advocate Paris Lees participated in the BBC’s “100 Women” event after being named the “most influential LGBT person” in Great Britain for 2013.

In the past few weeks over 40,000 people have signed a petition asking Victoria’s Secret to make Carmen Carrera their first ever transgender model.


A gender identity-inclusive version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act passed the Senate. ENDA would provide federally mandated protection for LGBTQ people in the workplace.

The Out100, a list of “the year’s most compelling LGBT people” included many trans* people including Laverne Cox, Kate Bornstein, Janet Mock, Cassidy Lynn Campbell, Zachary Kerr, Jazz and Calliope Wong.

Zachary Kerr, Jazz and Calliope Wong via Out 100

Zachary Kerr, Jazz and Calliope Wong via Out 100

Jeydon Loredo, a transgender high school student in Texas, wore a tuxedo in his senior portrait. After a fight with the school district, he won the right to have that picture in his yearbook.

After changing their name to reflect their commitment to trans* issues, GLAAD appointed its first transgender cochair, Jennifer Finney Boylan.


This time of year it’s very important that we remember those of us who have died due to ignorance, hatred and fear. Trans* people everywhere have the right to live. And when we do live, we are able to accomplish amazing things. Let’s hope that the upcoming year will see a dramatic decrease in the number of trans* people that we must memorialize and look forward to another year of great strides forward for the transgender community.

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Mey Rude is a fat, trans, Latina lesbian living in LA. She's a writer, journalist, and a trans consultant and sensitivity reader. You can follow her on twitter, or go to her website if you want to hire her.

Mey has written 572 articles for us.


  1. I really, really appreciate the positive spin on what can be a really depressing day. It’s really awesome to see such a thorough list of our accomplishments!

  2. I had no idea that so many amazing things happened in the trans* community this year! It’s especially cool to see so much progress being made by kids! Hopefully we can keep up this momentum.

  3. Mey-this is a really great article and definitely the good spin helps on a day when we can be overtaken by the sads. Progress may be slow, but it IS being made and CAN be made.

  4. Speaking of celebrating living, powerful trans* people (especially trans* women), Mey you are one of my favorite writers on autostraddle! I always love your posts and this is not an exception. Thanks.

    • (Also, I saw you when I first got to A-Camp and was like OMG IT’S MEY and then was too shy/cold bc snow to say ‘hi’ and tell you how much I like your writing…so this is me making up for that)

  5. I’m so happy to see this on Autostraddle, and so proud of all these amazing and powerful trans* people fighting for and creating positive change. Thanks for this post, Mey!

  6. yup, thank much Mey. We especially need the good news on days like this.

    And thanks, too, to all our sisters at Autostraddle for recognising us as sisters, for giving us space and for being allies. Blessings upon us all!

  7. I read this article and I loved it… and then I went and looked at the list and I just can’t. I can’t. We have so, so much work to do.

  8. While I appreciate the positive impulse, I don’t agree highlighting news about white trans guys and trans women in any way honors the young black trans women in the US who were murdered (yes, there was one trans guy murdered too… 1 man, 239 women). Nor do I think mentioning OUT Magazine, a snotty, exclusionary publication centered on well-to-do gay white men is any kind of award of which trans people should be proud. When OUT starts to actually cover the treatment of trans people (especially those who aren’t deemed attractive enough to appear in flashy pictorials on their pages), then I’ll have some respect for it. Btw, Kate Bornstein has previously stated she’s against the very idea of the TDOR and said: “Transgender Day of Remembrance is problematic because it’s so concerned with death and despair.’

  9. Okay. Please, please, please, understand that I’m typing this, and I’m kindof shaking with emotions. And part of me is writing this to let it out. I mean no harm or ill will or negative energy.

    So, first off, I have ‘issues’ with the TDoR. As in, I’d-never-want-my-name-read-at-one-ever issues. There’s a lot of stuff I could say, but suffice that I’m past ‘let’s reform it’ to ‘let’s stop this and do something completely different’.

    That said, for all my issues with TDoR, I didn’t appreciate this approach. If TDoR has any value, it’s as a day of mourning for those close to the people on that list. It’s *supposed* to be somber.

    I would’ve appreciated a thoughtful article about the complicated relationship a lot of trans women have to TDoR, and why some decide to go against the grain of the day. I’ve linked a couple of them (from 2011).

    But, I’m sorry, this really wasn’t it for me. When you devote your TDoR article to celebrating the living without even naming the dead, then you are forgetting them. You aren’t honoring them. And maybe it’d be more honorable not to turn these names into trans martyrs. But making them invisible trans martyrs seems like the worst of two worlds. sorry.

    • I understand where you’re coming from. One of my goals in writing this article was to honor our dead by showing the kind of lives that trans people live, and to make sure that trans people are made as unforgettable as possible. The more familiar people are with trans people and the things that we do, the harder it is for them to forget us or claim ignorance about us. Additionally, when they see the things that we do with our lives, perhaps they will come to understand us a little better and a few less people will hate or misunderstand trans people. I was trying to honor the dead by saying “hey, look at how amazing trans women and other trans people are, look at the great things we can do.” Does that make sense?

      Also, I made sure to link to the most complete list I could find of names of those we lost this year because I absolutely wanted to make sure that they were visible and present in this post. I’m sorry that that didn’t come across as obviously as I had hoped.

      • Assimilation is not liberation, and cis people can fuck right off. Fuck America’s Next Top Model. Fuck Smith College. Fuck Out Magazine. Fuck DC Comics. Fuck the Presbyterian Church. Fuck homecoming dances.

        You really think this crap is going to make the world a better place? Just three months ago Islan Nettles was beaten to death for walking down the sidewalk in her own neighborhood. I really don’t think it’s progress to be moving toward a time where trans people who are rich enough, pretty enough, white enough, and famous enough will get to be “normal,” respected members of American society while everyone else is fucked.

        How many trans women of color are trapped in the prison industrial complex? How many trans women of color get MURDERED in the prison industrial complex? (TDoR’s official organization has chosen not to list the trans people who get killed in prison). How is all this assimilationist crap going to help trans women who are sex workers, who have HIV, who are homeless, who don’t have access to basic medical care? Trans women who aren’t going to become co-directors of GLAAD or Victoria’s Secret models and who are disproportionately of color, undocumented, disabled, and poor?

        Most prominent LGB activists decided to take the assimilationist path a long time ago, decided to pursue being “normal” at the expense of liberation. Now it appears that trans activism wants to follow this same model. I mean. . .won’t it be SO SO great when we have trans senators, trans CEOs, trans talk show hosts, maybe even a trans pope?

        No. Because I’m a transsexual, most people, deep down, view me as subhuman, a freak, a monstrosity that’s trying to “invade and kill off all spirit” as the feminist Mary Daly put it. I can’t be the only person here who feels the first couple decades or so of my life was stolen from me by this profoundly sick, hateful society.

        Why are we now trying to be part of this bullshit? Why are we celebrating shallow “victories” and ignoring the suffering that is everywhere?

        I’ll be happy not when a trans woman is admitted to Smith College, but when a trans woman burns Smith College to the ground.

        • “I can’t be the only person here who feels the first couple decades or so of my life was stolen from me by this profoundly sick, hateful society.”

          You’re not. And, God, it’s so easy to be angry. To lash out at everything and everyone. Lord knows I could’ve written this myself at one point.

          But it does no one any good to take it out on third party institutions. Smith College is no more ‘responsible’ for transphobia than DC comics. Transphobia is the norm in society.

          So, what, you’ll burn society to the ground? Then live in the ashes like some episode of the twilight zone?

          You’ll have to mourn and grieve for lost time. But in the end, you just eke out a life for yourself and get comfy. And that means taking the world as it is. And working to change it, not to ease your pain, but to ensure that others don’t have to go through it, too.

        • I think the goal is the normalization of the trans* experience in society, not assimilation. Acceptance, not tolerance.

        • Rebecca, dear, i think my late exgf would have loved what you just said if her mind hadn’t been brainwashed into singlemindedly hating herself. Not deprogramming that is something i count as my failure, even if i had no chance and it was her non-typical neural makeup that went for institutional ‘reality’ instead of a mere individual, the poor girl couldn’t think any other way than in absolutes, all black or white.

          Whichever way the facts remain, a transsexual woman kills herself and the last thing i see her reading is hate propaganda. I hereby appoint myself a field judge (hello, Dredd) and consider myself more than capable of making a fair verdict on those facts and determine the guilty and responsible. I know their names – all except one still alive, pillars of ‘my own’ community, much higher in society than i could reach within the timeframe needed to make them miserable before they die. So what can i do? Only hate. And pray to the spirits of the dead we honour on this day to tear them apart or torture them when their time comes. If they would listen to a cis privileged crazy old lady like me, of course – but well maybe they do, Jean Petro wasn’t exactly black either.

          And as for transsexual women burning colleges i disagree with you, even in a case where my hatelist is openly worshipped. Know why? Because it’s not a single building, it’s a sprawling estate, for that you need a thermobaric strike. And the only way to put one’s hands on fuel-air ordnances is through a self-sacrifice of a military pilot. Think about it, she would be a strong awesome woman to both be there and be motivated, with your standard heightened 50% statistical chance to be lesbian/bi – oh noes, did we just consider a total army babe doing that to herself? ;) All the fuckers and cultists wouldn’t be worth a single tear of hers, nevermind her life. Seriously.

          While ashes is a more than acceptable lanscaping solution and are even pretty in my book (aggrotech chick speaking), Miriam above is generally right, you just build your own life. Because the only thing the subsentient trash truly want is you not to have it – and it is worth denying them their wish. because, HATE. Because spirits of the dead need you alive, to do what will give them peace and rest.

          She is also right in that people and the world can’t be changed, so the only way to live fulfillingy is taking the world as is. people are unchangingly worthless and there have never been any human rights victories. None. The only way humanity gets better is through technology. Slavery/serfdom was made redundant by automated production, lynch crowd treatment of gay people stopped because of modern comms/media linking all the otherwise isolated and outnumbered folks into a community, capitalist system needed women to be economically active and hence to rebel against male patronage – and mark my words, transsexual people’s equality is a cover-my-hind-quarters move by cis folks, afraid of their own failure to identify something they abstractly hate – and unwilling to provoke ostracism of their peers through an action they might not posess the information to un-choose. Technology wins the battles every single time.

        • Miriam, I suspect Rebecca was speaking metaphorically about Smith and how aspiring to join and value rigidly exclusionary institutions is misguided. (and I think we can all have differing opinions about that). Her experience is different from yours and it might just be that she won’t “evolve” into something resembling yours.

          As to who is responsible for transphobia… we all are if we participate in the perpetuation or normalization of it (and many trans people do that as well). Just as I, as a white person who grew up in the USA, was socialized with racism by the larger society, if I’m not actively working to dismantle it and understand how I’m perpetuating it, I am very much responsible for its continuation. “If you are not a part of the solution, you are a part of the problem.”

        • Gina: I wasn’t speaking to Rebecca’s experiences, but to her emotions. Like she said, she wasn’t the only one who felt like she’d lost time. I was simply stating how I got through that, and, in all likelihood, how she would, too. That’s not evolving politics, that’s emotional processing, and it’s something that unites everyone.

          As for the politics, I got that Smith was a metaphor. But “burning it down” metaphorically or not, won’t do anything to help trans* women in poverty. It won’t erase transphobia. More than anything else, what will help is surviving. You won’t be able to fight transphobia as a corpse. *That’s* why I prioritize finding a way, any way, to continue existing on this Earth.

      • Mey, I appreciate your concept, but the problem is, far too often this kind of thinking just results in “good trans/bad trans… those who pass/those who don’t… losers/winners… those who are queer-positive/those who aren’t, folks like us/freaks and outcasts… etc. Much as I appreciate Janet Mock and, yes, think she’s great, if I see another article with an undertone of “she’s actually pretty, OMG- she’s hot, she’s actually intelligent, she actually looks like a woman, you wouldn’t be embarrassed to be seen with her, she’s the leader of the transgender community” I’m going to be sick. The women (and man and perhaps non-binary people) who were murdered deserved to be honored for themselves and valued as human beings for themselves, not because there’s a white trans boy who was homecoming king (and I’m happy for him, but it’s two very different stories).

        And yes, I personally believe the TDOR would do better to honor and remember unique individuals in more detail as people who were loved, enjoyed and valued than just reading off a long list of names who become ‘owned’ by us as objects of oppression and proof of our community’s oppression. Nor do I believe the TDOR needs feel good moments and happy speak about how well some trans people are doing. That’s why a longer period of time was designated to discuss the wider trans community and that’s where those topics belong.

        • I totally agree with Gina, the Transgender Awareness week is the time to discuss the wider trans community and that’s where we should celebrate gains. Personally, to not get mad about the redirection of remembrance, I just considered the article as a few days late TAW article.

          What I think would be an awesome use of a TDoR article would be to grab a name at random(?) of one of the victims and do a deep dive on her life. How did she live? How did she get there? What was her support structure like? These details help to build a picture of a person and not an object. This will help put the violence in a context that will help people understand that this is happening to humans.

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