On November 20, the transgender community and their allies gather to mourn lives that have been lost and to imagine a better future. The day was first observed as the Transgender Day of Remembrance in 1999, and is now celebrated by many as the Transgender Day of Resilience.
Every year, dozens of transgender people are killed in the United States in violent attacks. According to the Human Rights Campaign, there have already been 32 documented deaths in 2022. The majority of them have been Black and Latinx trans women, although there have also been a number of trans men and nonbinary people of all ethnicities who have lost their lives. In 2021, these hate attacks reached record numbers, with 50 recorded fatalities.
While some were the victims of random transphobic violence, some were killed by romantic partners or family members, and some even lost their lives at the hands of police who had not been trained to respond to community members experiencing a mental health crisis. These tragedies demonstrate that there is still much work to do to protect vulnerable people in the US and to provide more accessible mental health care for those in crisis.
Unfortunately, these numbers are likely undercounted. Many deaths are unrecorded – transgender people who have not been able to update their identity documents may not have their gender and chosen name recognized by law enforcement or the media, and victims from unsupportive families often have their identities erased after their deaths.
These numbers also don’t reflect the substantial number of violent attacks on trans people who survive their ordeal. The 2015 US Transgender Survey found that in the year prior to data collection, 46 percent of respondents reported being verbally harassed and 9 percent reported being physically assaulted due to their gender identity. Even more shocking, 47 percent reported being sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetime.
Despite these devastating losses, it’s important to maintain hope. In 2015, the youth organization BreakOUT began commemorating Transgender Day of Resilience. Instead of centering on death, trans communities have increasingly embraced the day to celebrate their continued resistance against violence and their fight to survive and thrive. The day is especially important to transgender people of color, who find themselves targeted by multiple types of discrimination. This celebration of resilience honors their determination and strength. While honoring the dead is important, it is just as necessary to recognize and uplift the living who continue to struggle with systemic oppression.
You can read more about the victims who were lost in 2022 on HRC’s website. You can also view art and poetry by the trans community on the theme of resilience, curated by the advocacy organizations Forward Together.If you’d like to commemorate TDOR in the Portland area, The First Unitarian Church is hosting an interfaith vigil on Saturday, November 19, from 4 – 5:30 pm both in person and online. You can find more details here.