Transgender Day of Remembrance: The Urgency of Inclusion

The Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) started as a vigil in 1999 to honour the memory of Rita Hester, a Black, transgender woman who was brutally murdered in 1998. Started by Gwendolyn Ann Smith, the vigil evolved into an annual day on November 20th, commemorating all transgender people who have lost their lives to anti-transgender hate and violence since Rita’s gruesome murder. While we must remember and honour transgender people who have been violently taken from us, we must not restrict our understanding of anti-transgender hate to the past tense.

Anti-transgender violence and bigotry is a very ongoing and present epidemic threatening the lives, health, and general well-being of transgender communities. This year, on November 19th, merely one day before TDOR, the LGBTQ Club Q was attacked with five people killed and 17 others injured. The transgender and wider 2SLGBTQIA+ community is reeling once again, left to honour and remember those who have been forcefully taken from us in the past, while attempting to understand the senseless ongoing murders of our community members just hours earlier, and navigating the reality of future violence, not knowing when, where, or if it will strike.

For the transgender community, there is no opportunity to forget. Not remembering is not an option, as the violence has yet to stop to allow for a full breath, and safety remains an illusion for many. Further, taking an intersectional approach, we can see that Black transgender women face compounding violence from both anti-Black racism and anti-transgender hate. Subsequently, Black transgender women face heightened levels of violence with little hope of interpersonal and institutional protections (Dismantling anti-transgender violence).

Research on violence against the transgender community that considers an intersectional and anti-oppressive lens is critical in supporting change efforts at the institutional levels within society. Gender diversity must become a normalized, integrated part of the research, analysis, and collaborative community projects. Gender differences must be celebrated, supported, and most importantly, protected.

At the Anti-Oppressive Research Lab (AOR) Lab in the Live Work Well Research Centre, we create an environment that is responsive to the needs of the LGBTQIA2S+ community. We strive to amplify the voices and experiences of diverse and complex gender-diverse communities. Researchers have a responsibility to be change agents and produce research that not only captures realities as they are, but supports knowledge that has the potential to create positive structural changes and improved conditions for transgender communities. 

TDOR is one day every year, but there is much that universities can do every day to cultivate a campus culture that is inclusive of transgender and queer students, staff, and faculty: respecting pronouns, creating more queer and trans-safe spaces, ensuring that advocacy work is intersectional, providing reparations and supports to people who have been harmed by transgender violence, and continuous learning for the betterment of society.

~ Written by Malissa Bryan (they/she), colead of the Sexual and Gender Diversity Cluster at the Live Work Well Research Centre.