“Transgender Day of Remembrance” brings awareness and visibility to anti-transgender violence

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Large baby blue banners spelled out “Trans” in each panel of the display at the wall outside the Commuter Lounge. Both sides of the display provide resources and an interactive section where passersby can share how they will fight transphobia. In the middle panel, UCR alum Natalie Nguyen’s picture is framed with pink and white roses and a flower crown is placed on top of her picture.

This was the display created by the LGBT Resource Center along with student volunteers to observe Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) from Nov. 13 through Nov. 22. TDOR is a national event that is annually observed on Nov. 20. According to the TDOR website, the day “honors the memory of those whose lives were lost in acts of anti-transgender violence.”

This year, UCR’s display does not just honor the lives lost to transphobia, but also honors Nguyen, who graduated from UCR in 2016. Nguyen passed away on Nov. 3, 2017.

“We decided one of the things we wanted to do was to honor her and make sure that she wasn’t forgotten, particularly by students who knew her,” says program coordinator for the LGBT Resource Center, Megan Rush. Nguyen was active in the UCR LGBT and Asian Pacific Islander community and was one of the founding members of the Queer Association of Asian and Pacific Islanders, a UCR organization that aims to bring awareness and visibility of the LGBT-API community.

The display is not only meant to bring awareness but to also incite change. The two panels on the wall included an interactive portion where passersby could answer the prompts, “How you will support a trans loved one?” and “How will you will fight transphobia?”  Even something that seems simple, like respecting a transgender person’s pronouns, can make an impact. “Imagine if the entire world does not validate you and then that one person does,” explains Rush, “that might be the one spoon they have to move on for the day.”

The interactive portion was incited by Nguyen’s passing. “Natalie was lost to all the ways that transphobia affects our world, so how are you going to help to make that not happen,” explains Rush. The HUB display aims to be the tipping point where members of the campus move from inciting change to becoming an advocate and ally for the LGBT community.

Each year, the International Transgender Day of Remembrance posts a list of all the transgender people who lost their life due to transgender violence on their website. The name, picture, description of who they were and cause of death is listed on the papers that are posted on the display.

“There’s hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of names that go up here. We can fill this entire wall with those sized papers of hundreds of names,” says Rush. “While I like to think that it will go down, I will not believe that the level of violence for our trans brothers and sisters will go down in this current political administration.”

According to The Human Rights Campaign, “of the 102 killings since January 2013 … 88 of the victims were transgender women, and that nearly all of them were black or Hispanic. Nearly three-quarters were under age 35, including four minors. And 55 of the victims were killed in the South, including 16 of this year’s victims.” The report also shows the intolerance, hate and discrimination the transgender community faces on a daily basis.

The violence committed against transgender people comes from three sources, explains Rush, “somebody you know, somebody who is in your friend circle or somebody you just met who doesn’t know you’re trans and they haven’t disclosed that to them.”

TDOR began in 1999 as a vigil when founder and transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith honored the memory of Rita Hester. Hester was a transgender woman who was killed in 1998.

“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,” states Smith on the TDOR website.

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