City sees firsts for Trans Day of Remembrance
by Angela Thomas
Nov 15, 2012 | 1807 views | 1 1 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
With the Philadelphia community shaken by recent incidents of violence against transgender individuals, this year’s Transgender Day of Remembrance has taken on even more meaning. The occasion will be marked by a number of community events, including two new tributes.

Mayor Michael Nutter will proclaim Nov. 20 Transgender Day of Remembrance.

Gloria Casarez, the city’s director of LGBT affairs, said it appears this will be the first time the city is issuing a TDOR proclamation.

“One of the goals of TDOR is to raise public awareness of hate crimes against transgender people,” Casarez said. “The events that have been done in Philly largely draw members of the LGBT communities, so I think having a city proclamation helps the issues to be more broadly recognized.”

The draft proclamation available by presstime noted that Philadelphia “is committed to the safety and health of all people” and supports TDOR, which it calls “an opportunity for Philadelphians to come together to mark the passing of transgender and gender-variant individuals — as well as those perceived to be transgender — who have been murdered because of hate.”

The document notes that TDOR helps to raise awareness, publicly mourn victims and “reminds the general public that transgender people are their sons, daughters, parents, friends, partners and family.”

Casarez said the proclamation takes on special significance this year as the community continues to grapple with the recent murder of Kyra Cordova, who, along with Stacey Blahnik and Nizah Morris, is named in the proclamation.

“This year we lost at least one transgender person to violence, and we don’t know if Kyra was killed because she was transgender or not, but the fact is she’s a transgender person who was murdered, and her murder remains unsolved,” Casarez said. “That’s certainly something that tied us directly into TDOR this year.”

Casarez plans to read the proclamation at TDOR events at The Colours Organization and William Way LGBT Community Center.

And Drexel University will do its part to mark the day by raising the transgender flag 9 a.m. Nov. 20 at 32nd and Market streets. This is believed to be the first time the flag is being raised by a college or university in the region.

The flag, designed by Monica Helms, has become an international symbol for the transgender community. It includes two blue stripes, two pink stripes and one white stripe in the middle.

Drexel alum Erica Deuso conceived of the idea during discussion with another recent alum.

“[Her fellow alum] realized that there was an unmet need for recognition of transgender students. He reached out to me because of the work I do with the corporate community involving transgender rights,” said Deuso, a gender-transition liaison for a local Fortune 500 company.

Deuso worked with Rebecca Weidensaul, associate dean of students at Drexel, on the flag-raising event.

She said the administration and entire campus community have been supportive of the event.

“They had agreed not only to raise the flag but to purchase it to be able to do a flag-raising each year,” Deuso said. “What has been amazing is the complete acceptance by those in the multicultural community at Drexel. The students, staff and faculty have really embraced it.”

Deuso considers this a big step for inclusion on an academic level and hopes that, after this year, other schools like University of Pennsylvania and Temple University will take similar steps.

Deuso hosted an information session Nov. 8 in one of Drexel’s dormitory buildings to discuss transgender issues.

“It is an open and interesting subject for a lot of people. There is still a lot of misunderstanding and fear. People fear what they don’t know,” she said.

Because of the Thanksgiving holiday, Deuso is uncertain about the turnout for the flag-raising but said she hopes those who attend can walk away with a new understanding of what the day represents.

“The best thing I can hope for is that people learn what the flag is, what is stands for and why we are raising it,” Deuso said. “We do need a day to represent those people who have lost their lives to ignorance and violence. The biggest thing we have to do right now is commemorate the day and that there were people who lost their lives for being who they are.”

Elsewhere in the city, Colours will host a vigil for the day from 7:30-8:30 p.m. Nov. 19 at 112 N. Broad St., in the second-floor conference room.

William Way, 1315 Spruce St., will also host its annual TDOR event at 7 p.m. Nov. 20. Attendees can speak in memory of someone who passed away.

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November 19, 2012
I was one of the people who lobbied to have a TDOR proclamation for this city. I just want to say that this is a gift from me to the community. I wish I had deeper pockets to really help the community more, but I hope this is will show that Philadelphia cares about its large transgender community.