UA, Tucson community members honor Transgender Day of Remembrance
A participant in the Transgender Day of Remembrance vigil places a lit candle in the Old Main fountain Sunday, Nov. 20 in remembrance of those who have been killed and targeted for being transgender.
Tied to a bed and stabbed. Stabbed in a bar. Stabbed in the heart. In the neck. Stabbed twice. Six times. Eight times. 30 times. Burned. Shot. Dismembered. Drowned. Tortured. Poisoned. Pushed out a window. Run over. Strangled. Hung. Stoned. Beheaded. Tied to railroad tracks.
Killed at the hands of strangers, of police officers, of fathers, cousins, siblings or partners. Killed at age 16, at age 21, at age 74. Killed in Brazil, Mexico, the U.K. and the U.S.
At least 300 transgender people all over the world have lost their lives to violence stemming from hate in the last year, according to the transgender Europe Trans Murder Monitoring Project.
The Southern Arizona Gender Alliance and the Associated Students of the University of Arizona Pride Alliance hosted Tucson’s 18th Transgender Day of Remembrance, on Sunday Nov. 20. There, the names, ages, dates of death and locations of all the reported victims were read by crowd members, who then lit candles to float in the fountain outside of Old Main.
The night also featured a speech by Monica Roberts, a transgender person of color from Houston, Texas, who runs her own blog.
Abby Jensen, an attorney and a transgender woman, introduced Roberts and said she has been fighting for the transgender community for a long time, and "gives no quarter to those who do not respect us."
Roberts spoke to a crowd of roughly 100 people.
"We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope," Roberts said, quoting Martin Luther King Jr.
Roberts went on to urge attendees to continue to fight, addressing the concerns the recent election have raised in the LGBTQ community.
“The time for being angry about it is over,” Roberts said. “The time to act was on Nov. 8. We didn’t. We lost that round. Not the war, just a battle.”
She stressed the importance of voting in local elections, calling out politicians who tried to pass bills damaging to the transgender community.
“We have to think about the fact that we come from stern stuff,” Roberts said. “We come from a legacy of rebellion and fighting. We cannot let up on that just because some unqualified idiot got elected to the White House.”
Roberts said that transgender rights are human rights, and the well-being of everyone is bound together in a way that cannot be untangled.
Because of that, Roberts said there is no way the movement can lose.
“We’ve suffered losses and rebounded before,” Roberts said. “There is no moral way to oppress a community. We cannot lose.”
Roberts ended her speech by sharing words of support.
“You are part of the diverse mosaic of human life,” Roberts said. “Never let anyone tell you you’re not. We mourn today. Then we plan and fight for a better tomorrow.”
The crowd participated in a remembrance ceremony before walking in a procession down to the First United Methodist Church, where there was a dinner for those who attended the event.
Lanay Lindsey an intern at Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation Youth Prevention, attended the event and the dinner and said events like Transgender Day of Remembrance are important because they give the community a chance to come together.
“We get to talk,” Lindsey said. “We get to share the heaviness of it all. It’s not just on one, on the individual.”
Lindsey attended the event with a friend, Emery Squeer who is also an intern at SAAF Youth Prevention who agreed that the event fostered community.
“There’s a certain power and strength in coming together to remember those we’ve lost and to plan how we can stop that from happening,” Squeer said.
After the names were read, Jensen shared the statistic that every 29 hours, a transgender person is killed for being transgender, though that number is based of the deaths that get reported, and does not include the ones that commit suicide due to the oppression they face every day.
“The problem of violence against trans people around the world is so little recognized by people,” Jensen said. “It’s important that the trans community remembers those who have been killed just for being who they are.”
Though the night focused on those who have been lost, the overall message was of hope, support and love for a community that faces an incredible amount of hate, violence and oppression.
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