Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) is an internationally recognized observance that focuses on remembering the people who lost their lives to anti-transgender violence. It takes place yearly on November 20th. The week leading up to Transgender Day of Remembrance is called Transgender Awareness Week and typically is observed to the whole week going from November 12th to November 19th.
Most commonly the people who are murdered are transgender women of color, with people in South America, specifically Brazil seeing the most deaths. The holiday does not recognize deaths due to suicide (which surveys have found over 50% of trans people have attempted), aids (which is more common in transgender women of color than in any other demographic), or any form of death other than murder. Most of these crimes go unpunished because the victims are considered high risk, and expectantly because of ignorance on the part of the authorities.
One of the largest problems with the murder rate and attempts to identify transgender murder victims is that there really isn’t a good way to tell if someone is transgender just by looking at them. Most of the time victims are identified as trans just because they are wearing feminine clothing or makeup. Since it is societally acceptable for women to wear masculine clothing this may contribute to the lack of murders where victims are identified as trans men. Many countries do not offer hormone therapy or transgender surgeries, and if they do it is out of many transgender people’s reach. Because of this if the victim has been found in acceptable clothing for their gender or found nude, then there is no reason for authorities to even suspect they are transgender.
There is also a good chance that some people being counted as transgender in these murders are simply gender nonconforming. They could be gay men in drag or lesbians, however, there is still no way to tell someone’s sexuality just by looking at them. Many of these people have lost their families when they came out, so there is nobody for police to interview about the murders. A long history of police violence against the LGBT population means that the few people they were close to are probably too afraid of the police to come forward.
Transphobic bias often means that transgender people cannot find a job and they are forced into survival sex. Their status as sex workers either as prostitutes or in pornography only increases transphobic bias against them. Police officers and others will profile them as sex workers and automatically assume that was a factor in their death and many people still see being transgender as a sexual fetish. Transgender women report a higher rate of sexual assault than cis men and women.
In 1999 transgender activist Gwendolyn Ann Smith, a transgender woman, wanted to memorialize the murder of her friend, a transgender woman of color named Rita Hester who was violently killed in Allston, Massachusetts in November of 1998. She was murdered in own apartment during a hate crime at the age of 34.
A candlelight vigil was held in her honor to which gained an audience of over 250 people. They expressed their grief over the way that their friend’s death and gender was being covered by the media. Nobody was talking about the type of person she was or how unjust her death was, everyone
Smith who is also a graphic designer started a web-based project to memorialize her friend which over time has evolved into an international day of action. By 2010, Transgender Day of Remembrance was observed in over 20 countries. On December 12th 2017, the Canadian Province of Ontario unanimously passed the Trans Day of Remembrance Act which officially recognized TDoR and requires the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to hold a moment of silence every year on November 20.
Rising Murder Rates
The murder rate has been steadily rising despite the trans rights movement and improved attitudes towards transgender people. There are debates as to why this may be, but most agree that there are not really more murders happening but most people agree that it is probably because of increased awareness and attitudes. This would mean that:
- Police officers are less likely to be ignorant or bias towards transgender victims and are more likely to identify them.
- Transgender people are less likely to lose their families and therefore police are more likely to be informed of their transgender status.
- Transgender people are less afraid to come forward to the police with information.
- More people are coming out as transgender.
- Transgender people are living their lives more openly which sadly opens them up to violence.
How to Observe Transgender Day of Remembrance
Many LGBT organizations and activists will try to hold an event in honor of Transgender Day of Remembrance in order to increase awareness. The traditional way to honor TDoR is to hold a vigil where the names of all the victims of that year are read out. For some people Trans Day of Remembrance is a very personal day and is a time for private mourning. Some other ways that TDoR can be observed include:
- Make an art piece and share it.
- Create a temporary memorial in a public place for those who walk by to see (with the land owner’s permission).
- Attend a vigil in honor of TDoR.
- Set up a table or booth to answer questions and talk to people about the holiday.
- Hold a gathering where someone reads the list of names of identified victims.
- Have a candle lighting ceremony with a candle for each of the victims (do not release balloons, it is littering and endangers wildlife).
- Raise money for a transgender outreach organizations, especially for those in countries with high murder rates.
- Make a donation to a transgender-friendly homeless shelter, suicide prevention service, or AIDS organization.
- If you are transgender and have been a victim of violence share your story.
- Remember a transgender friend or family member you may have lost and share their story.
- Make a post on your social media accounts about TDoR to spread awareness.
Sources and Resources for More Information:
2018 Transgender Day of Remembrance. (2018, November 15). Retrieved July 14, 2019, from https://www.masstpc.org/community-events/tdor/
- Part of the website for the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, speaks briefly on Trans Day of Remembrance and then lists events that are scheduled across the Massachusetts, as well as other resources.
American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Transgender Day of Remembrance is Nov. 20. Retrieved July 14, 2019, from https://www.apa.org/pi/lgbt/resources/transgender-day
- An article by the Office on Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity of the American Psychological Association about Trans Day of Remembrance, along with resources for general information and further readings for educators and health professionals.
Human Rights Campaign. (n.d.). Transgender Day of Remembrance. Retrieved July 14, 2019, from https://www.hrc.org/campaigns/transgender-day-remembrance
- The web page for the Human Rights Campaign (the largest LGBT organization in the world) and their information and articles on transgender day of remembrance.
Trans Respect Versus Transphobia. (n.d.). TMM Resources. Retrieved July 14, 2019, from https://transrespect.org/en/trans-murder-monitoring/tmm-resources/
- Trans Respect Versus Transphobia monitors and makes lists of the names of transgender people who have been killed, how they died, where the body was found, and other information. The list of names is needed it you are going to have the traditional vigil where the names of the victims is read.
Transgender Day of Remembrance #TDOR – November 20. (2018, November 20). Retrieved July 14, 2019, from https://www.glaad.org/tdor
- GLAAD, a LGBT media monitoring project, and their page on Transgender Day of Remembrance, along with more resources including a guide for any media that may be covering TDoR.
Wikipedia. (2019, June 29). Transgender Day of Remembrance. Retrieved July 14, 2019, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transgender_Day_of_Remembrance
- Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia, but their information is edited and maintained by their users, so all information from Wikipedia should be confirmed and sourced. This is their page on TDoR.