Members of the Tucsontransgender and gender-nonconforming community gathered for a vigil at Catalina Park on Tuesday, Nov. 20 for the Transgender Day of Remembrance to honor and remember transgender victims of violence.
This day has been occurring since 1999, where it originated in Boston and San Francisco, and has been celebrated by the Tucson transgender community since 2001.
This vigil was organized by Abby Jensen, an attorney as well as a member of the Southern Arizona Gender Alliance, and Trans United. Jensen has been the event coordinator for the Transgender Day of Remembrance in Tucson since 2013.
Since she started organizing the event, documented fatal violence against members of the trans community globally has increased by 200 percent, or from one reported death every two days to one every day, according to Jenson. However, this might be due to better reporting methods, as well as more visibly transgender people and therefore an increase in violence towards the community.
“Most people don’t have a clue about how endemic violence is against trans people, and they have no idea how hate-filled the violence that occurs really is,” Jensen said. “When trans people are murdered, they’re not just shot in the back of the head or stabbed once. They were shot multiple times, bodies are dismembered, their bodies are burned. It’s horrific. It’s of some belief that we need to be erased from the world.”
Jensen shared the pain she has felt each year while reading the long list of names of individuals who have lost their lives to hate-violence for being transgender. This year, she opted to have those in attendance come to the mic and take turns reading the names, instead of reading them herself as she had done previously.
“It’s very difficult to come here every year, and especially when we read all the names. In the past we would also read the manner in which they were killed, and after number two hundred of the person who was stabbed or shot or strangled or drowned, it’s very hard to take. But people need to understand how endemic that is,” Jensen explained.
At this year’s vigil, they read the names of the 29 transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals who have lost their lives to violence this year:
Brooklyn BreYanna Stevenson, 31
Brandi Seals, 26
Rhiannon Layendecker, 51
Christa Leigh Steele-Knudslien, 42
Vicky Gutierrez, 33
Zakaria Fry, 28
Celine Walker, 36
Tonya Harvey, 35
Phylicia Mitchell, 45
Amia Tyrae Berryman, 28
Sasha Wall, 29
Carla Patricia Flores-Pavon, 26
Nino Fortson, 36
Gigi Pierce, 28
Antash’a English, 38
Diamond Stephens, 39
Cathalina Christina James, 24
Keisha Wells, 54
Sasha Garden, 27
Dejanay Stanton, 24
Vontashia Bell, 18
Shantee Tucker, 30
London Moore, 20
Nikki Enriquez, 28
Ciara Minaj Carter Frazier, 31
“These vigils are really for bringing awareness to the problem that we have as trans people being targeted and brutalized and murdered just because we want to be ourselves,” said Brianna Titone, Colorado state representative-elect and a member of the transgender community. “[This event is] a necessary thing that shouldn’t be necessary. There shouldn’t have to be this type of murder happening to a group of people. I hope that one day we don’t have to have these events and these are more events of progress, that there’s been acceptance of trans people in this world.”
And this progress is what transgender people are striving for.
“It’s important for us to remember that even though it seems like trans rights have come forward so far recently, it still has a ways to go,” said graduate student Annie Beguhl.
On campus, transgender or gender-nonconforming students have access to SAGA and LGBTQ Affairs. For more information about the services that are offered, visit sagatucson.org or lgbtq.arizona.edu. The LGBTQ Resource Center located on the fourth floor of the Student Union Memorial Center.
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