In November 1998 the murder of transgender woman Rita Hesler sparked a movement, a push to annually mark a day on the calendar to remember those transgender people who have fallen. Transgender Day Of Remembrance is now in its tenth year, and as the statistics continue to mount annually against the transgender community, November 20 is a day for all of us around the world – transgender or otherwise – to take stock.
On average two transgender people are murdered each month, according to global figures. This year alone 26 transgender people were killed. People like Duanna Johnson who died from a gunshot wound to the back of her head on September 11 in Tennessee. She made the news back in June when two police officers bashed her and were caught on camera doing so. When she died she was in the process of suing the City of Memphis for $3.1 million.
The body of 18 year old Angie Zapata was found beaten to death with a fire extinguisher after the man she met online became enraged after finding out she was transgender. Juan Carlos Aucalle Coronel’s life also came to an abrupt end when her body was found with multiple face and head fractures before being run over by a car in Italy. In February 2008 Lawrence King was shot by a classmate because he wore girls’ clothing to school in California. These are only three who have lost their lives simply because of who they were.
Out of the 26 recorded murders this year all were brutally violent, apart from one person who died by drowning – a pattern which has repeated over the past ten years and 245 murders. In the Middle East and some parts of Asia and India murders are still rife and often they’re committed by law officials so the deaths are not recorded.
In Sydney this past February transgender woman Brigitte Fell became headline news when her partner was taken into questioning for an unrelated crime by Surry Hills Police. Brigitte’s transgender status was revealed to him by police , which led to Brigitte’s boyfriend brutally assaulting her after he was released from custody. Such an irresponsible act put Brigitte’s life in danger and very easily could have made her another statistic.
Everyday transgender people around the world face a variety of abuses – verbal abuse is the most common and physical abuse can sometimes result in death. There is still little understanding of transgender people, despite the fat that we’ve been a part of society right throughout history. Many indigenous cultures treat transgender people as the healers or the shaman of the tribe and are often revered. Western society on the other hand, riddled with religious fear, continues to ostracise transgender people. It’s not hard to see the results of this fear – year after year transgender people continue to be slain.
On November 20 people have the chance to remember those who have fallen at events held all over the world. At many of these events the names of those fallen are announced and candles are lit in their honour. Often groups hold talks on the day, and so it can also be a chance to connect with government to push for better prevention and education. It is also important to involve our gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer and intersexed allies to join in solidarity and better understand each other to move forward. Transgender Day Of Rememberance is not only a day to remember those who have been murdered, it’s also a celebration that we are still here and always will be a visible part of society.
In the past year Australia lost some very valuable transgender community members, people who were instrumental in past Transgender Day Of Rememberance events. Victoria’s Zoe Belle and New South Wales’ Eleanor Lister both worked tirelessly on transgender issues in this country.While their deaths were not the result of murder, they are still tragedies, and have left a huge hole in the transgender community. Even this year in Sydney I was planning to put on a Transgender Day Of Rememberance event in Elanor’s absence, but there was very little response to the call out for volunteers. Even last year’s event in Sydney barely drew twenty people. It would be fantastic to see the transgender community and our allies come together more strongly to put on an event that states that we are here and we wish to be heard.
So even if you cannot get along to a Transgender Day Of Rememberance event please take a moment on November 20 to stop and remember those who have fallen victim to these vicious hate crimes. Transgender people walk amongst us. You may pass them in the street and not even realise they are transgender. Just because they pass or don’t pass in public that doesn’t mean they are safe from violence. To know we have allies on this day of remembrance makes the journey towards social acceptance that little bit easier for future battles that lie ahead.
Australia is hosting a few events also this year.
In Sydney the Gender Centre is holding an event at the Twenty10 Hall – level 2, 45 Bedford St in Newtown on Nov 20 from 2pm to 4pm.
In Melbourne the Metropolitan Community Church are holding a special worship service on Nov 23 7pm at 271 Burnley St, Burnley.
In Canberra you can go along to Glebe Park from 7pm on Nov 20 for a 2 hour TDOR memorial.