Saturday, November 19, 2011

2011 Transgender Day of Remembrance

Tomorrow, Sunday, November 20th marks the 13th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day set aside to memorialize those who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred and prejudice. The event is held in November to honor Rita Hester, whose murder on November 28th, 1998 kicked off the “Remembering Our Dead” web project and a San Francisco candlelight vigil in 1999. Rita Hester’s murder — like most anti-transgender murder cases — has yet to be solved.
 
According to Gwendolyn Ann Smith, the founder of TDOR, "The Transgender Day of Remembrance serves several purposes. It raises public awareness of hate crimes against transgender people, an action that current media doesn’t perform. Day of Remembrance publicly mourns and honors the lives of our brothers and sisters who might otherwise be forgotten. Through the vigil, we express love and respect for our people in the face of national indifference and hatred. Day of Remembrance reminds non-transgender people that we are their sons, daughters, parents, friends and lovers. Day of Remembrance gives our allies a chance to step forward with us and stand in vigil, memorializing those of us who’ve died by anti-transgender violence.”

Research and personal stories remind us that transgender people of color are particularly vulnerable to experiencing prejudice, discrimination, murder, and police brutality.  In 2010, the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) partnered with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), to release a startling report detailing the experiences of transgender people of color.
The key findings revealed:
  • Nearly half (49%) of Black respondents reported having attempted suicide
  • Trans black students reported alarming rates of harassment (49%), physical assault (27%), and sexual assault (15%) at school; harassment was so severe that it led 21% to leave school. 6% percent were also expelled due to bias.
  • Black transgender people had an extremely high unemployment rate at 26%, four times the rate of the general population.
  • Thirty-two percent (32%) of Black transgender people lost a job due to bias and 48% were not hired for a job due to bias.
  • Forty-six percent of Black transgender people were harassed, 15% were physically assaulted, and 13% were sexually assaulted at work
  • Thirty-eight percent of Black transgender people who had interacted with the police reported harassment, 14% reported physical assault, and 6% reported sexual assault.
Discrimination was pervasive for all respondents who took the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, yet the combination of anti-transgender bias and persistent, structural and individual racism was especially devastating for Black transgender people and other people of color.
In response to these and other egregious acts of violence, on Wednesday, November 16th, the White House convened a special meeting designed to address violence against transgender people.  Anti-violence advocates and transgender community members spoke out and stepped up to discuss strategies and best practices aimed at addressing the issue.  The meeting was facilitated by the NCTE’s Executive Director, Mara Keisling, along with Gwendolyn Ann Smith.  PFLAG National was also in attendance as a strong advocate for transgender equal rights and specially addressed the unique challenges that transgender and gender non-conforming students experience in schools across the nation.

These oppressive conditions and acts of violence against transgender community members must stop. 

In 1998, PFLAG became the first national organization to include transgender people in its mission statement; we also became the first national organization to develop a public policy that is completely transgender inclusive. Sadly, here we are in 2011 and we are still seeking basic vital protections for the health and well-being of our transgender loved ones.  In honor of those we have lost to violence and hate, this year and in years passed, PFLAG National and our 350 chapters across the country, re-commit to supporting the needs and rights of transgender people and their families everywhere.

On Sunday, please take time to remember transgender hate crime victims, as well as those who face violence and discrimination every day. 

To find out what events are taking place in your community, please visit http://www.transgenderdor.org/.

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