A vigil Tuesday night left more than 60 candles floating in the Old Main fountain, representing a small fraction of people in the worldwide transgender community who had been murdered because of their transgender identification.
The event was the seventh annual Transgender Day of Remembrance at the UA, and was hosted by Wingspan, Southern Arizona’s primary LGBTQ community center, said Rae Strozzo, Wingspan’s Southern Arizona Gender Alliance program coordinator, adding that it was the final event of the UA’s Transgender Awareness Week.
The event also featured 61 handmade kites, which were lined up around the fountain, each representing a victim. The kites were created by Made for Flight, a local transgender ally project started by TC Tolbert, an adjunct lecturer of English.
People gathered around the fountain as both Strozzo and Tolbert gave brief speeches, and Tolbert read two of his own poems before the 61 names were read by attendees. As each name was read, a candle was placed in the fountain.
While 265 transgender people worldwide have been murdered since Nov. 20, 2011, Tolbert said only 61 names were read due to the amount of time it would take to get through every one, adding that 61 was “already devastating enough.”
Kathe Young, a psychologist for UA Counseling and Psychological Services, attended the event because of its connection to her line of work.
“I work with the OASIS Program, which is for sexual assault and relationship violence,” Young said. “So coming out to support something like this is important to me.”
Carmen Love, a junior studying history and Spanish, came to the event as part of an assignment for a gender and women’s studies class, which required students to attend events outside the classroom specifically during Transgender Awareness Week.
“I came from more of a sheltered family,” Love said, “So it’s been nice being able to celebrate different paths of life.”
UA LGBTQ Affairs also supported the event, said Juan Pereyra, the office’s assistant intern supervisor and a graduate student studying higher education and administration.
“The transgender community is really important to us because it’s part of LGBT,” Pereyra said. “So we have to show support for the communities that show support for us as well.”
Chance Mora spent much of his time handing out sheets of paper listing the victims’ names and encouraging people to come to the microphone to read them.
“What I’m here to do is show support for and remembrance for all of the transgender individuals who have been murdered in the past year,” Mora said.
The event ended with a performance by Desert Voices, a local LGBTQ chorus, as some attendees walked in a procession back to Wingspan carrying the kites.
Although none of the victims named during the event were from Arizona, Tolbert said 15 were from the U.S.