Transgender Day of Remembrance

Every November 20, the transgender and larger LGBTQIA+ community come together to commemorate those lives lost to anti-transgender violence. Named Transgender Day of Remembrance, this day provides space and time for everyone to remember the violence faced by the transgender community everywhere. 

What is Transgender Day of Remembrance? 

Rita Hester was a transgender woman murdered on November 28, 1998. Loved deeply by her family and friends, Rita was known to live life large. She was born and raised in Hartford, Connecticut before leaving for the big city of Boston. It was there that her life was unjustly cut short just days before her 35th birthday. 24 years later, Kathleen, Rita’s mother, still waits for a verdict to her daughter’s murder. Like many other cases of violence against transgender people, Rita’s murder remains unsolved. 

A year later in 1999, a group held the first Transgender Day of Rememberance in San Francisco to bring awareness to anti-transgender violence. Led by Gwendolyn Ann Smith, the event was inspired by a conversation she had in 1998. She recalls a conversation held with friends where she lamented the deaths of two transgender women of colour (Rita Hester and Chanelle Pickett). No one in that group recognized Chanelle’s name and it dawned on Gwendolyn that these women were being forgotten. TDOR was created as a means to preserve not only their legacy, but the legacy of all transgender people who are killed due to anti-transgender violence.  

What is the purpose of TDOR?

Transgender Day of Remembrance is also called Trans Day of Remembrance or TDOR. On the evening of November 20, vigils are held, to provide the transgender community and allies with an opportunity to grieve and remember those who have passed. During these events, speakers, artists, spoken word poets, or musicians are brought together to create a space for healing. Though the activities and events may look different, across the world TDOR is a memorial for all the lives lost to bigotry, hate, and anti-transgender violence. 

To contrast the more somber occasion of Trans Day of Remembrance, Transgender Day of Visbility (TDOV) was introduced to celebrate the resilience of transgender people. Observed on March 31 of each year, TDOV celebrates the joys and successes of the community. You can read more about TDOV in our post Trans Day of Visibility: Why it Matters, How to Celebrate.

So how can organizations honour Trans Day of Remembrance? 

Unlearn biases 

  1. Book a training session with us to learn more about building inclusive spaces for transgender people
  2. Follow Trans Murder Monitoring to understand the impact of anti-transgender violance worldwide 

Support and donate to local organizations 

  1. CHEW’S Project: provide frontline support for 2SLGBTQ+ youth and emerging adults 
  2. Pride Centre of Edmonton: provide support to those with diverse sexual orientations, gender identifies, and gender expressions
  3. RARICANow: their aim is to promote human rights for all LGBTIQ+ refugees and newcomers in Canada  

Honour and celebrate the transgender community 

  1. Attend a candlelight vigil held for Trans Day of Remembrance 
  2. Purchase books, live performances, and media created by transgender artists
  3. Share transgender stories through online articles and social media posts 
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