The annual day of observance on Nov. 20 that honors the memory of those trans folks we’ve lost to anti-transgender violence and bigotry has come and gone. But we must always keep those people in mind who have lost their lives due to transphobia, ignorance and hate. This year’s Transgender Day of Remembrance was poignant as we mourned the loss of Tameka “Michelle” Washington, who was killed earlier this year. While her murderer awaits trial, trans woman Nizah Morris’ 2002 murder remains unsolved, and the Human Rights Campaign reports that 22 trans and gender-nonconforming people have been violently killed this year.
Gwendolyn Ann Smith, who writes the column PGN publishes “Transmissions,” founded Transgender Day of Remembrance in 1999 when she honored Rita Hester — a transgender woman who had been killed in 1998 — with a vigil. What started as a small and modest, online-driven community movement has turned into an international and wide-reaching event.
At least 150 transgender and gender-nonconforming people have been killed in the U.S. since 2013. In 2017, 29 transgender folks lost their lives to violence, the highest number ever recorded. This year’s number of 22 lives lost, includes 21 trans folks of color, 20 of them trans women of color.
While TDoR is a reminder of trans violence and a time to memorialize and hold vigil for lives lost, it is important to recognize the impact of race, gender and class and how those factors contribute to a violent death. Transgender violence absolutely disproportionately affects Black trans women in the U.S.
As we mourn the loss of transgender folks across the U.S., as we say their names, let us also hold close the impacts of racism and sexism. It’s important to understand systemic violence, as much as it is physical, because one causes the other. Workplace discrimination rooted in racialized transmisogyny forces many trans women of color to experience poverty.
Trans women of color have, for a long time, created spaces for themselves, but everyone needs to aid in that endeavor. Talking about violence against trans folks must necessarily mean we have a simultaneous conversation about race, transmisogyny and class. Not just one day but every day, we should have nuanced conversations about the trans experience and systemic barriers. And every day, we should also celebrate the excellence of trans people.