Don't Forget Transgender Day of Rememberance
January 18, 2008
by Jamie Tyroler
Don?t Forget Transgender Day of Remembrance
But Community Should Also
Honor Those Working for Changes
Originally, I was going to write a column reviewing the events of 2007, just like so many other writers. But then something happened in Kansas City. Well, to be honest, it?s more like something didn?t happen.
In 2002, I conducted the first Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) in Kansas City. The day, marked each year in November, memorializes those who have been killed as the result of anti-transgender prejudice. Our event included about 20 people with candles by the J.C. Nichols fountain. Another group of people was chugging eggnog for a radio contest nearby.
Since that year, a Transgender Day of Remembrance event was held each year at Spirit of Hope MCC Church. Until November 2007, that is. On Nov. 16, The Believers, a documentary about a transgender choir, was shown at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church, and the discussion group did talk about the Day of Remembrance.
But the lack of an independent Transgender Day of Remembrance in 2007 in the Kansas City area was disappointing for me and for other transgender people. It is the one day that is set aside for the transgender community and is often considered the most important day for us.
I can see why some people wouldn?t want to be a part of TDOR. One of the difficult things about the day is learning about people who were killed for trying to live their lives as they deem best for themselves ? people much like those involved in planning TDOR events.
Transgender Day of Remembrance events are often focused on those who were killed. Some events try to use the day as a way to open discussion to push for non-discrimination laws and policies that include gender identity and expression. Although I really wasn?t involved in the 2006 TDOR event, a thought struck me: Many of the people being remembered lived in states and/or cities that had these protections.
In the past, a few people didn?t want to attend TDOR because they were worried that we might be attacked by some hate group, picketed by Fred Phelps and family or outed from media coverage of the event. Personally, I would be very emotional for days before the event and I would be so emotional during the event that I had problems completing sentences without needing a tissue. Then I would be drained for several days afterward.
Perhaps it is time for the transgender communities to start also having events to recognize those people who have made contributions and have done so facing a lot of potential resistance. Quite a few people have helped both the transgender community and society at large.
A few of these people who deserve recognition (and this is by no means anything close to a complete list) are:
? Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality
? Kylar Broadus, a Columbia, Mo., lawyer who has been involved in various national and statewide organizations
? Monica Helms, president of Transgender American Veterans Association
? Gwen Smith, a writer and activist who has been heavily involved with Transgender Day of Remembrance events and many national and regional organizations
? Donna Rose, who resigned from the board of the Human Rights Campaign after the group supported the version of ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act) that did not include gender identity and expression
? Donna Ross, board president of the Kansas City Anti-Violence Project.
As I said, this is not an all-inclusive list of people who deserve recognition, but it?s a start. Without their efforts and those of countless other people, the transgender community wouldn?t have made the advancements that have taken place over the last few years.
As we go into the New Year, I hope that more people become involved with their community. I also hope that there is a concentrated effort to add employment and housing protections for the transgender community and any other minority group of people who are not protected.
Happy New Year!