Transgender Day of Remembrance (#TDOR) is an international day held every November 20 to remember those who lost their lives to anti-transgender violence.
Transgender Day of Remembrance was created by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith to honor the memory of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was murdered in Boston in 1998. Friends, family, and community members poured their grief into a candlelight vigil to commemorate Rita and the transgender people lost to violence that year. Out of that first memorial, the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance was born.
“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.”
– Transgender Day of Remembrance founder Gwendolyn Ann Smith
2015 has been a painful year. This year alone, over 21 transgender people have been murdered in the U.S. That’s a historic high. More transgender people were killed in the first six months of 2015 than in all of 2014. 19 of those killed this year were transgender women of color. In 31 states, you can be fired or discriminated against at work simply because of your gender identity. And in October, a much reported on anti-transgender ad campaign led Houston voters to reject an ordinance which would have offered nondiscrimination protections to several groups.
It’s been a very difficult year. But as 2015 draws to a close, it’s important we celebrate the progress that was made this year, recognize the work we still need to do, and strive for a brighter tomorrow in remembrance of those we lost. Visibility of transgender people and stories is higher in the United States than it’s ever been, and our federal government has been somewhat responsive to the needs of transgender folks – especially the Executive Branch. The Obama Administration appointed the first openly transgender White House staff member, issued an executive order protecting federal employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and publicly supported a transgender student’s right to use the correct bathroom in school. In fact, before 2015, no US President had ever even said the word “transgender” in public.
And today, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) proposed a new rule that would require emergency shelters to house transgender folks based on their gender identity. This new rule would not only make housing more accessible to transgender young people experiencing homelessness, but also protect them from abuse and violence.
We have a lot to reflect on this year. We invite you to do it with us. Check out tdor.info for details on events and vigils taking place near you today.