Transgender Day of Remembrance was set aside to annually memorialize those who were killed due to transphobic hatred or prejudice. Originally, it was to honor the life of Rita Hester, a transgender African-American woman who was murdered in Allston, MA in 1998. Today communities around the globe gather annually on November 20th for public worship and vigils.
Sadly, 25 trans people have been reported killed in the USA and countless others worldwide. There are no statistics for the number of suicides resulting from harassment for being transgender, but we can guess that it is likely to be high.
I too have been on the receiving end of harassment and physical attack; have experienced discrimination in housing and employment. Despite all this, I have been extremely lucky compared to many transgender people. No one should have to rely on luck to find housing. No one should have to rely on luck to be hired or to keep a job. No one should have to rely on luck to safely live her life.
Fear and religious belief are often the motivations behind many of these attacks. Thankfully Unitarian Universalism teaches us that there are many ways of being; that by cherishing our differences we can better understand and appreciate the world.
But there is still much work to be done, some of which requires not just changing laws and hearts but also shifting our language to create space for a broader understanding of gender.
I yearn for a time when instead of memorializing transgender and genderqueer individuals who have been killed for living their lives authentically, we will take time to celebrate the gifts these individuals offer our communities. Until then I will attend the vigils, not only to remember the lives lost but also to offer to transgender communities a supportive religious voice.
I invite you to take a moment on the 20th to remember the many lives lost this year and throughout all the years. I invite you to share with your family and friends your appreciation for the transgender people in your life. I invite you to consider finding places where you can broaden our collective understanding of gender and help make the world a more accepting place for everyone.
May it be so, and may we be the ones to make it so.