Transgender Day of Remembrance


<em>Cover: Photo: William J. Ingalls

Transgender Day of Remembrance was internationally recognized on November 20. This day is for the trans* community and their allies to remember and mourn the lives of trans* individuals whose lives were taken through hate crime. In years past, November 20 fell during RIT’s November break due to the quarter system. For this reason, this year marks the first celebration of the Transgender Day of Remembrance on RIT’s campus.

According to Sam Richheimer, a fourth year Biotechnology and Molecular Bioscience major and a student worker at the GLBT Center, there were 238 murders of members of the trans* community reported worldwide between November 20, 2012 and October 31, 2013. Of these murders, 95 occurred in Brazil, 40 were reported in Mexico and 16 were reported in the United States — this means the United States ranks third in the number of murders of trans* individuals.

Richheimer cautioned that these numbers fluctuate because many crimes against members of the trans* community go unreported. This may be because the family of the individual does not accept the way the individual chooses to express their gender or because the police report the crime as related to something other than the individual’s gender identity.

A mourner reads from the a list of names of those killed the past year during the Transgender Day of Remembrance Vigil at RIT Mark Ellingson Hall Dormitory Quad in Henrietta, N.Y. Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013. The vigil is in remembrance of the loss of over two hundred and forty known and unknown deaths and murders which occurred in the past year around the world due to violence against the Transgendered community. Photo: William J. Ingalls

For Transgender Day of Remembrance this year the GLBT Center worked with Tangent, a club at RIT designed to give voice to the transgender, genderqueer and non-binary members of the RIT community. The two clubs commemorated the 238 individuals who lost their lives this past year due to this violence.

The ceremony began on November 20 at 7:30 p.m. in the Student Development Center, room 1300. After opening words from Tangent’s president Val Pizzo, there was a candle light vigil accompanied with the reading of the 238 names, which will took place outside in the NRH quad. After this attendees gathered back inside for guest speaker Shauna O’Toole, a member of the trans* community who spoke about her experience in the workplace as a trans* community member.

Those interested in learning more about the trans* community are encouraged to visit the GLBT center between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. However, this event went beyond an educational seminar.

“It isn’t a trans* 101 education thing,” said Richheimer. “Our purpose here is not to explain what transgender is: We expect our attendees to already have a basic understanding of that … Transgender Day of Remembrance is as much a day of mourning for the people that have been murdered due to transgender-phobia as well as a call to action to recognize trans*phobia in our community.”

Pizzo also mentioned that too often, these individuals are not recognized properly outside of this day, especially with the gender, name or identity that they feel comfortable with.

Mourners listen to the names of the dead read allowed during the Transgender Day of Remembrance Vigil at RIT Mark Ellingson Hall Dormitory Quad in Henrietta, N.Y. Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013. The vigil is in remembrance of the loss of over two hundred and forty known and unknown deaths and murders which occurred in the past year around the world due to violence against the Transgendered community. Photo: William J. Ingalls

Henry Hinesley, a professor for the women’s global studies program and the coordinator for the GLBT center, agreed with  Pizzo’s statement, explaining that the purpose of the commemoration serves as a reminder for those of the trans* community that there is still progress to be made and that, sadly, many are still vulnerable and at risk.

“We want to help people see that this violence is still happening,” said Hinsley. “There is a need for educating people about allowing people to perform their gender, or express their gender, in whatever way makes sense to them….”

Mourners pass the flame during the Transgender Day of Remembrance Vigil at RIT Mark Ellingson Hall Dormitory Quad in Henrietta, N.Y. Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013. The vigil is in remembrance of the loss of over two hundred and forty known and unknown deaths and murders which occurred in the past year around the world due to violence against the Transgendered community. Photo: William J. Ingalls