The origins of the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) go back to November 1998 when a black transgender woman called Rita Hester was brutally murdered. The following year, her friend, Gwendolyn Ann Smith, started an online project to remember Rita and other transgender people who had been murdered that year. This quickly evolved from the online memorial service to actual gatherings of people and it then spread rapidly to many countries across the world. By 2010 services were held in 185 cities throughout 20 countries spread across the whole world – and in 2017 there will be many more cities and countries.
The week leading up to Transgender Day of Remembrance is known as Trans Awareness Week and the day itself is always on the 20th November.
The number of transgender people murdered simply for trying to be their authentic selves has increased every single year since the inception of Transgender Day of Remembrance – no doubt due to the increased accuracy of reporting – but this does not include the many cases where the murders go unreported (or mis-reported) and neither does it include the large numbers of people who have taken their own lives in desperation against social injustice, bullying and inequality – inequality in employment, in healthcare, in housing, in education and in the justice system.
In 2016, the year that saw the extreme right wing start to gain a foothold in UK politics and witnessed the rise in hate crimes against people of colour, against Muslims and other faiths and nearer to home, against the LGBTIQ communities, it must have seemed like we were being taken back 20 years and losing all we had fought to gain – but sometimes we have to lose the odd battle to win the war. Just remember that the majority, the often silent majority, have been persuaded by our arguments – and they are on our side.
We are witnessing the rise of far right political groups across Europe – and sadly this is even truer for our brothers and sisters who are facing vastly increased threats to their existence in the United States. This has seen Muslim women being threatened and taunted, effigies of black people hanging from trees, the rise of the Klan and the demonisation of LGBT people and laws being proposed to strip away the rights of trans people to even exist. I have friends in the States who are now living in fear of their lives – and American friends who now live in the UK who are afraid to visit their friends and family back in the US. Yet the TERF’s in the anti-trans cabal deem fit to snuggle up to these far right groups as their ideology of hatred makes them fitting bed fellows.
However, this is where a strange dichotomy has arisen, there are more and more people who have come to our side to help us win this fight against hate – but because of the rise of the far right, more and more people who have this hatred for anybody that they deem to be “different” have felt emboldened to act on their hatred. This hate of minorities has continued to rise in 2017 and hate crimes across the UK have reached their highest levels since records began – and this is true for transgender hate crime as well.
This year, to commemorate our Transgender Day of Remembrance, a service has been arranged by Not Alone, Plymouth and rather than have a competing service we are urging members of Transfigurations to join their service of dedication to those transgender people who have been murdered or who felt there was no longer any hope to be true to themselves, and sadly decided to take their own life. Details about the Transgender Day of Remembrance Service are in the image at the start of this post. Sherwell Church is in North Hill, Plymouth PL4 8ER (see map below).
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