Reflections about Transgender Day of Remembrance
By Sam Claypool, Trillium Child & Family Therapist
Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) is a day where people are invited to come together to reflect on the violence perpetrated against the transgender community. When I was asked to write about this topic, I struggled because, TDOR isn’t really about me. Yes, I am transgender, but I am a white man. I live in a world that privileges me and provides me a greater respect than I ever got as a woman.
When I first visited the TDOR website, I was overwhelmed by the list of names. Transwoman after transwoman, murdered simply for being herself. Violence against women permeates societies around the globe; this violence is compounded with transphobia into what is known as transmisogyny. This is once again compounded with racism, leading to the all too common (and at times seemingly constant) news stories of another transwoman of color, murdered. Yes, transgender men are at risk, have been victimized, and killed. The fear that I might experience something like that follows me daily, but the risks I face pale in comparison to what my trans sisters face.
In my work as a child and family therapist, I have had hundreds of conversations with people about gender. Because I am out about my identity, many people come to me with questions or to process things they have learned about trans issues. Rarely, make that never, do people discuss the violence faced by the transgender community. TDOR is about exposing that violence and standing up in solidarity against it. In my work with transgender students, I have heard them speak about the daily abuse and fear they experience. With shifting political climates, many trans people are terrified. I am terrified. At the core of my fear, is the worry that more of us will end up on the list of those we remember. That simply for being ourselves, we will lose our lives.
As people argue over bathrooms or locker rooms, please remember that we are scared for our safety. Please remember that we needed to be true to ourselves so badly that we were willing to risk everything. Please remember that we were brave, strong, pioneering, and full of love. This TDOR, let us honor those we remember by standing up boldly and bravely in solidarity against racism, violence, transphobia, misogyny, and all forms of hate.
History of Transgender Day of Remembrance
This Sunday marks the 18th year of Trans Day of Remembrance, a day to honor the lives of trans folks that have been lost as a result of violent hate crimes. The observation of this day began in 1999 to honor Rita Hester, a black trans woman who was murdered in Allston, Massachusetts in 1998. In 2016 alone, there were 15 reported murders of trans people in the United States. However, according to The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), misgendering of victims by media and medical professionals is ubiquitous. This misgendering has led to incongruences in reporting data. (The Human Rights Campaign, for example, notes that 20 trans people have been murdered this year.) Additionally, according to a 2014 statistic from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Project, of the victims murdered, “80% were people of color, 55% were transgender women, and 50% were transgender women of color.”
Individuals who identify as trans have been found to have a higher risk for mental health challenges in their lifetime. Factors that contribute to mental distress include discrimination, lack of support, gender dysphonia, as well as other forms of oppression such as violence and exploitation. Many trans folks experience mistreatment, and even violence, from a young age, as a result of being in unsupportive or uninformed school and work environments. These conditions can contribute to higher rates of poverty and substance abuse. These factors can also result in diagnoses such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD, with higher rates of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts than the general population. A recent research study, which focused on a group of transgender children from ages 3-12, has shown lower rates of mental distress and higher rates of support from family and community. This project is ongoing to observe the effects of puberty and emerging adulthood; for now, it points to a promising future for some trans youth.
One local university group is providing that promise and community to trans students. The Queer Resource Center (QRC) at Portland State University is a space for queer and trans students to gather information about community resources available to them, as well as a destination to make friends and find support. The QRC’s Trans Resources Coordinator organizes TEMPRR days, or Trans Empowerment, Resistance, and Resilience days, which is an annual event that occurs in November and culminates in Trans Day of Remembrance.
This year, the Portland community has the opportunity to attend a vigil hosted by Multnomah Friends Meeting. In memory of the victims taken by transphobic violence, Multnomah Friends Meeting, a Quaker spiritual community, will be holding a vigil open to all on Sunday, November 20th, from 6-8pm. If you have an LGBTQ friend struggling with victimization or suicidal thoughts, direct them to the Trevor Project website or have them call 866-488-7386. (The Trevor Project provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ young people ages 13-24.) Another helpful resource is Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860. This hotline is staffed by trans folks for trans folks.
Events happening in the Portland area surrounding Trans Day of Remembrance:
– Evening vigil at Multnomah Friends Meeting on November 20th from 6:00-8:00 pm. The Meeting is located at 4312 S.E. Stark Street Portland, OR 97215. This event will include silent centering, reading of names, sharing out of the silence, and releasing fire. The event will conclude with refreshments in the social hall.
– On November 20th the Q Center will be hosting Tranz Guys – an inclusive trans-masculine & gender queer discussion/social support group for people assigned female gender at birth, but who no longer identify as such. This event occurs from 6-8 pm at 4115 N Mississippi Ave.
– On November 18th there is a Transgender Women’s Group from 7:00-9:00 PM at the Q Center on 4115 N Mississippi Ave.
 Human Rights Campaign, 2016. http://www.hrc.org/resources/violence-against-the-transgender-community-in-2016
 Transgender Mental Health, 2014. https://tgmentalhealth.com/basic-issues-in-transgender-mental-health/