The Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) honors the memories of those who lost their lives in anti-transgender violence. It is annually held on November 20th. TDOR began after Rita Hester, a transgender woman, was murdered in Allston, MA, on November 28, 1998. A transgender advocate, Gwendolyn Ann Smith, held a vigil in order to honor Hester’s memory, sparking the “Remembering Our Dead” web project. The campaign went viral but Hester’s murder went unsolved.
According the Smith, “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.”
TDOR raises awareness of the hate crimes committed against transgender people, while providing a space to publicly mourn and honor those who have lost their lives due to hate. Also, during the week of November 10—14, organizations and individuals across the country participate in Transgender Awareness Week in order to raise awareness about transgender and gender non-conforming.
This year’s 13th annual TDOR Nashville event was held at Scarritt-Bennett Chapel. For those in Nashville, the Nov. 12th murder of Gizzy Fowler, a transwoman in Nashville, lent the event increased urgency. Gizzy’s mother was in attendance to mourn and honor her daughter.
Marisa Richmond, the first trans woman elected to public office in Tennessee, opened the event. She explained that all gather in order “to remember those who were taken from us far too early because they were different.” Fredrikka Joy Maxwell then read a spoken word poem, “Lullaby for a Child of God.”
Shaun Arroyo from T-Vals, an transgender education and support organization, spoke of a future when “there are no new names to add to the recitation.” He also addressed Nashville’s history of transpeople working together to help people and emphasized that, despite the causes of sadness, people should also be proud of what has been accomplished for the community and for the cause.
“We are a beautiful and accomplished people ready to contribute. We can take pride in a community that refuses to forget those who can no longer be here with us today. We can take pride in a community that refuses to accept the circumstances that led us to no longer share our time with too many,” Arroyo said.LaSaia Wade, a Nashville activist fighting for trans visibility, spoke of the grief and frustration she feels at acts of violence against trans people and the loss of another of her sisters, Gizzy Fowler, because of a lack of understanding and tolerance. Wade vowed that the community would not stay quiet about this cause, and announced a march in February.
Marisa Richmond closed the event with a call to action, encouraging those with knowledge of the Fowler case to contact police. She also encouraged the audience to contact every state legislator in support of bills being promoted by Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition to protect minorities from discrimination and intimidation.
At a reception after the event, audience member Lauren Taylor, echoing Richmond, said, “It’s important for transpeople and all of those in the LGBTQ community to make an effort to be seen and heard.”
For more information about transgender issues in Tennessee, visit www.tvals.org/, and www.facebook.com/tntpc.