November 20th is Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR), a day to remember people who have been murdred as a result of transphobia. TDoR was founded by transgender activist Gwendolyn Ann Smith in 1999 to memorialize the life of Rita Hester, a transgender woman murdered in November 1998. Violence against transgendered people continues to be a horrific reality, with The Trans Murder Monitoring Project estimating upwards of 750 transgender murders in 51 countries over the past three years — and these numbers are likely extremely low due to the fact that different countries report trans gender deaths in different ways, and many victims are not identified as transgender at the time of their murder. TDoR mourns the tragic losses incurred by these outrageous crimes while striving to celebrate the lives of the victims it memorializes with projects and events like the “Remembering Our Dead” web project, candlelight vigils, film screenings, art shows, and marches. Last year it was observed in 185 cities in more than 20 countries.
I didn’t know anybody who was transgender until I was a young adult. In fact, I only knew a very small handful of people who were openly gay, and counted myself lucky to call one or two of them a friend. As I grew older, went off to college, and then started a career, I met more and more people who were part of the LGBT community. And I never thought of them as anything less than they are: human beings with the same hopes, dreams, and desire for love and equality that I have. I never understood why who somebody loves, how they dress, or what gender they identify with should dictate their place in society — whether they’re allowed to get married, join the military, adopt a child, or, especially, live free of fear. I really believe the LGBT community is leading the next Civil Rights era in America and I hope to see each and every one of it’s members given the same rights and freedoms as the rest of us in my lifetime.
In observeance of Transgender Day of Remembrance Chris and I watched the real-life story of Brandon Teena’s murder, Boys Don’t Cry. I saw the ground-breaking film in the theater when it was released in 1999 and I’m still as outraged now as I was when I first saw it. I’m outraged that the murder happened all those years ago, and equally outraged that so many of Brandon’s friends and family, even to this day, never accepted him for who he was.