TDOR began in 1999 when activists held a vigil to honour Rita Hester, a 34-year-old African American transgender woman who was killed the previous year in her apartment. Gwendolyn Ann Smith organised what has grown into a worldwide commemoration of all those killed by anti-transgender violence. Hundreds of thousands of people across the globe now observe this solemn day by honouring the memory of those who were killed and holding local remembrance events.
Statement from TLDEF Executive Director Michael Silverman
“The transgender community – and transgender women of colour in particular – is in the midst of a crisis of violence. The number of transgender people killed this year is staggering. More than 20 people have been lost. Every year the National Report on Hate Violence Against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and HIV-Affected Communities reveals the disproportionate impact that deadly violence has on transgender people, and transgender people of colour most severely.
“The Transgender Day of Remembrance reminds all of us that we must work hard to address the overwhelming levels of day-to-day discrimination that transgender people face, including a lack of employment opportunity and unconscionably high barriers to accessing basic health care. This discrimination keeps people marginalised and makes them vulnerable to violence.
There is no one solution to the problem. Only a path forward where much work is needed to confront the obstacles community members face so that we can all live with dignity and respect, free from discrimination and violence.
“Many of the most vulnerable clients we serve at TLDEF live at the intersection of race, class and gender discrimination. The statistics on hate violence remind us how very dangerous that particular intersection can be.
“We have learned that seemingly simple interventions can often make a big difference in people’s lives. Transgender women of colour comprise the largest demographic group served by our Name Change Project. We’ve studied the impact of a name change on their lives and know that it helps. It raises levels of employment; it raises incomes; it increases access to health care; and it lowers levels of abuse that people experience, among other things. In short, it helps to move people away from the margins and towards the mainstream. It’s not a magic solution. It’s just one intervention that helps.
“The road ahead of us will be a long one. We’ll be tired and we’ll be angry at times. But we will press forward as a community, knowing that we will all one day be free. We are reminded today that there is no alternative to victory. Lives are on the line.”