Transgender Day of RemembranceIt’s time to demand accountability for anti-trans violence.

The LGB community needs to step up and stop anti-trans violence.

My latest column is an effort to bring awareness to Transgender Day of Remembrance, an important annual event happening world-wide on November 20th.  It’s especially crucial that lesbians become aware of this day since, as the old queer activist adage goes, “An attack on one of us is an attack on us all.”

Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) was initially founded in 1998 by Gwendolyn Ann Smith, to memorialize the still unsolved murder of transwoman Rita Hester. TDoR is currently observed in more than 20 countries and about 200 cities across the globe to bring awareness to the ongoing issue of hate crimes against trans people. This year, events are planned in a wide range of cities including Tel Aviv, Liverpool, London, and Milan, as well as Vancouver, Ottawa, Grand Forks, South Bend, and New York. Even The United States Military Academy at West Point is holding an event. For a complete list of cities holding events, see the TDoR website at

TDoR events are designed to be solemn remembrances of lives that were lost, and ensure these lives are not forgotten. Although there has been pull in the past from groups wishing to “lighten the mood” of TDoR events, Marti Abernathey, founder of the Transadvocate, and TDoR volunteer, emphasizes that this day should be preserved for its original intent. Of those honored each year, she says, “Many of these victims were disrespected and used up until the minute they died. I don’t believe that should continue to happen after their death. If you’re wondering if something is appropriate for a TDoR event, ask yourself whether you would do this at the funeral of a loved one. If the answer is no, then it’s not appropriate for TDoR”

The TDoR website lists the names of many trans and gender variant people who were killed over the past year. It’s shocking to read through the names of people from all over the world, and to see the violent means by which people have died. These include blunt force trauma, blows to the head, by being shot, stabbed, and being run over. The victims include children as young as eight years old, killed by their own parents, for not fitting stereotypical gender norms. Similarly, while not every person may have identified as trans, they were victimized for being perceived that way, in the same way that homophobes choose targets that they perceive as gay, regardless of the victim’s actual sexual orientation.

It’s also important to remember that for every trans person who has died, many more have suffered from attacks they survived. For example, Rebecca Denham recounted an assault to me that she suffered on her college campus. Attacked by several men while bystanders chose not to intervene, she was left “bruised and bloody.”  She told me, “My clothes were torn, my body was covered with their spit, and still they kept on hitting me. But it was the kicks I remember most… I remember them because I can still feel them in slow motion, the impact propelling me this way and that way.” She was scared to go to the police, fearing further harassment, and had to tend to her own injuries alone and afraid.

Even as we mark Transgender Day of Remembrance in whatever ways we can-attending a candlelight vigil, reading names of those who have passed, leading a march, there is still always more we can do. As members of the lesbian, gay, and bisexual community, we must also remember our role in helping put an end to the discrimination and violence that transgender and gender non-conforming people face each day in the course of their daily lives.

Aside from physical attacks, violence against transgender people takes the form of harassment, bullying, shaming, and discrimination. Whether these acts or statements of hatred-and the silence following them–are perpetuated by our friends, families, co-workers, media outlets, politicians, national organizations, or even the rabidly anti-trans TERF bully bloggers, it is up to all of us to begin to demand accountability for those who disseminate hatred. Because by remaining silent in the face of anti-trans violence- regardless of who is perpetuating it or whatever lies are made in a feeble attempt to justify it—we become complicit with the haters, and thereby with the killers, as well. And losing even one more life to anti-trans violence is one life too many.