Blog: Transgender Day of Remembrance: Honouring Gender-Diverse Lives 

November 18, 2022
Transgender Day of Remembrance is recognized every November 20th to honour and remember transgender, two-spirit, and all gender-diverse lives lost to discriminatory violence. The day advocates for safety, justice, inclusion and education on the experiences of gender non-conforming persons. 

By Amethyst Zapisocky, ESPC Volunteer

*Trigger Warning: transphobic/discriminatory violence and assault.   

Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) is observed every 20th of November to remember the lives of transgender, two-spirit, and all gender-diverse persons lost to transphobic violence. (1) The day was founded in 1999 by Gwendolyn Ann Smith as a way to bring awareness of anti-transgender violence and to honour the memory of the victims–namely, Rita Hester and Chanelle Pickett who were both murdered transgender women of colour. (1) (2) The first vigil occurred in San Francisco but has since grown to be international, with many countries and individuals taking part to remember and advocate against discriminatory assaults on gender-nonconforming people. (2) The week before TDoR (November 13-19) is Transgender Awareness Week, which aims to increase transgender visibility and educate the public on non-cisgender issues, discrimination, prejudice, and experiences. (3) To summarize, as Gwendolyn Ann Smith herself said in a 2012 HuffPost article, “this day we mourn our losses and we honor our precious dead — tomorrow and every other day, we shall continue to fight for the living.” (2) 

Importance of TDoR 

Discriminatory violence against gender-diverse communities is not slowing down, with 375 murders occurring worldwide in 2021, (4) and 327 in 2022. (5) Transgender Europe’s (TGEU) Trans Murder Monitoring (TMM) update found that, in 2022 globally, most assault victims were transfeminine women of colour and sex workers. (5) This indicates that an intersectional issue is also involved. The day is important because it sheds light on the disproportionate harm to gender non-conforming persons, with those having additional marginalized identities being even more at risk. TDoR is necessary because crimes against gender-diverse populations are often under-reported, inaccurately reported, or ignored altogether. (5) (6) Honouring those lost to transphobic violence, especially when acknowledging intersectionality, respects the victims and awakens public consciousness to help stop history from repeating. 

Getting Involved with TDoR 

Participating in TDoR involves awareness of violence against the transgender community and honouring the memory of those who have been lost to it. The main way to engage with TDoR is by attending or organizing vigils which usually include a reading of the names of those lost that year. (1) Name lists can be accessed online through TGEU’s TMM 2022 update PDF (a global name list) with more information available on their website, and GLAAD’s (a renowned advocacy organization for LGBTQIA+ communities) 2021-2017 (mainly American)  list. The day is a reminder to continually advocate for transgender safety, rights and inclusion; to raise awareness for the discrimination that gender non-conforming people face. (7) (8). As the TGEU suggests, this can be done by amplifying transgender voices, committing to trans-positive action, and engaging through social media. (7) GLAAD also suggests (for Trans Awareness Week) watching their Netflix documentary DISCLOSURE (more information can be found on their Transgender Awareness Week website). (3) Lastly, individuals can participate by donating to gender-diverse supporting organizations. GLAAD offers many initiatives which can be donated to, such as the Anti-Violence Project, Trans Women of Color Collective, and Transgender Law Center. There are various Canadian projects, examples include Egale, Pride Centre of Edmonton, and 2-Spirited People of the 1st Nations 

TDoR Provincially and Nationally 

Awareness of discrimination and violence against transgender Canadians is important and relevant because, as evidenced by Statistics Canada 2018 research, gender-diverse Canadians are more likely to experience harassment as well as physical and sexual assault. (9) Supporting transgender safety is paramount. Edmonton itself, along with its province and country, has been engaging with TDoR for years. Like many international societies, the city has hosted vigils and events such as the transgender flag being raised at the Alberta Legislature for TDoR 2015, (10) and an anti-violence march in 2019. (11) For Canada, in 2017, Ontario’s Legislative Assembly passed the Trans Day of Remembrance Act. (12) This act ensures that the Assembly honours TDoR every November 20th with a moment of silence at 10:29 a.m. in respect of persons lost to transphobic violence. (12) Canada’s Defence Team Pride Advisory Organization (DTPAO) also has recognized TDoR, with an online article available to read on the Government of Canada’s website. (13) Community events for TDoR are typically shared through online platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. RARICANow with Pride Center of Edmonton and the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services (iSMSS) have organized a vigil in Edmonton to honour gender-diverse lives, taking place November 20th, 2022 from 3:00pm-6:30pm (MST). (14) This event remembers all victims of transphobia, the legacy of two Albertan lives lost this year (Dr. Michael Marshall and Queen Kash Bae), and advocates for transgender black lives. (14) 

Summary 

Transgender Day of Remembrance has been observed every November 20th for over twenty years to honour and remember those who have lost their lives to transphobic violence. It is an internationally recognized day which brings awareness to the intersectional discrimination gender-diverse communities face and ensures those lost to violence are not forgotten. This day, along with the prior Transgender Awareness Week, helps to stop the gender non-conforming stigma and aims to cease harmful history from repeating. The main way to engage with TDoR is by taking part in a vigil and hearing the names of lives lost to discriminatory assault. Allies can also boost non-cisgender voices, take action against transphobia, participate through social media, and/or donate to transgender-supporting initiatives.  

An Edmonton vigil for 2022 is being hosted by RARICANow along with Pride Center of Edmonton and iSMSS, reserving a spot and more information can be found here. This is a day to honour transgender, two-spirit, non-binary, and all non-cisgender lives, and ensure their experiences are heard and known.  

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Amethyst Zapisocky is working towards a BA in psychology at the University of Alberta. A fourth-year undergraduate student, her career focus is on research and social development. She values equity, learning, and philanthropy. Personally, Amethyst enjoys statistics, mindfulness and jazz music. 

Resources

  1. GLAAD. (n.d.). Trans Day of Remembrance: Nov 20. Retrieved November 14, 2022, from https://www.glaad.org/tdor  
  2. Smith, G.A. (2016, February 2) Transgender Day of Remembrance: Why we remember. HuffPost. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/transgender-day-of-remembrance-why-we-remember_b_2166234  
  3. GLAAD. (n.d.). Trans Awareness Week: November 13-19. Retrieved November 14, 2022, from https://www.glaad.org/transweek  
  4. Transgender Europe. (2021, November 11). TVT TMM update: Trans Day of Remembrance 2021. Transrespect. https://transrespect.org/en/tmm-update-tdor-2021/  
  5. Transgender Europe. (2022, November 8). TMM update: Trans Day of Remembrance 2022. Transrespect. https://transrespect.org/en/tmm-update-tdor-2022/  
  6. GLAAD. (2021, November 20). TDOR: In memoriam.  Retrieved November 14, 2022, from https://www.glaad.org/blog/tdor-memoriam  
  7. Transgender Europe. (2021) Trans Day of Remembrance: TDoR 2021 campaign. Retrieved November 14, 2022, from https://tgeu.org/tdor/  
  8. Public Service Alliance of Canada. (2021, November 19). November 20: Transgender Day of Remembrance and the work ahead. https://psacunion.ca/november-20-transgender-day-remembrance-and-work  
  9. Jaffray, B. (2020). Experiences of violent victimization and unwanted sexual behaviours among gay, lesbian, bisexual and other sexual minority people, and the transgender population, in Canada, 2018. Juristat: Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, (85-002-X), 1-27. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/85-002-x/2020001/article/00009-eng.htm  
  10. Pratap, V. (2015, November, 20). History made at Alberta Legislature on Transgender Day of Remembrance. GlobalNews. https://globalnews.ca/news/2353104/history-made-at-alberta-legislature-on-transgender-day-of-remembrance/  
  11. Dyer, K & Romero, D. (2019, November, 20). ‘We deserve human rights’: Edmontonians march in Transgender Day of Remembrance. CTV News Edmonton. https://edmonton.ctvnews.ca/we-deserve-human-rights-edmontonians-march-in-transgender-day-of-remembrance-1.4694460 
  12. Trans Day of Remembrance Act, S.O. 2017, c. 29. https://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/17t29  
  13. The Government of Canada. (2021, November 19). This Transgender Day of Remembrance, let’s work toward inclusiveness. The Maple Leaf. https://www.canada.ca/en/department-national-defence/maple-leaf/defence/2021/11/transgender-day-remembrance-work-towards-inclusiveness.html  
  14. Katiiti, A.C. (2022). Trans Day of Remembrance. Eventbrite. Retrieved November 14, 2022, from https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/trans-day-of-remembrance-tickets-465540794047  v
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