November is a poignant month for the transgender community. Each year, it see’s the holding of the Transgender der Day of Remembrance (TDOR), which is held internationally on 20th November. But what is this event and why should we in the UK be concerned ?
TDOR was the brainchild of Gwendolyn Ann Smith to commemorate those victims who were killed simply for expressing the gender they knew themselves to be inside. For being honest and open about who they were, confronting transphobia and prejudice. Initially, the event was held in honour of Rita Hester, whose murder on November 28th, 1998 led to a candle light vigil in San Francisco in 1999. (Rita Hester’s murder, like most transgender murder cases has yet to be solved.) From this humble beginning, a web project called “Remembering Our Dead” was launched which grew in turn to the TDOR.
TDOR is now a significant worldwide event, in particular in Brazil, the USA and Honduras. Why these countries ? The answer is frighteningly simple. More than half of all transphobic murders worldwide occurred in Brazil. In Honduras, trans people are routinely killed at the rate of one a week, all in a country with a population smaller than London. Many people suggest that recorded figures from these countries are actually the tip of the iceberg, since many crimes of this nature aren’t actually recorded. Further, even the published figures don’t record the stories of trans people who took their own lives as a result of transphobic bullying.
But why should we in the UK be concerned with what appears such a remote event ? Again, the answer is very simple. Nearly 280 transphobic murders were painstakingly recorded last year by the Transrespect vs Transphobia project (TvT research project (2015) “Transrespect versus Transphobia worldwide” www.transrespect-transphobia.org) This project recorded and gave names to victims of transphobia across Europe. Here in the UK, we should see TDOR as an opportunity not just to remember the names and lives of Kajal Mansuri, Layla Bursa, but also to raise awareness of the wider issues of trans-discrimination and transphobia.
Fortunately, we are privileged to live in compassionate times, sensitive to hatred based violence. But even now the deaths of those based on anti-transgender hatred or prejudice are largely ignored by the media. TDOR therefore serves several purposes. It mourns and commemorates the lives of our brothers and sisters who might otherwise be forgotten. It gives our community the opportunity to show the love and respect for our people in the face of national indifference. TDOR puts names and pictures to an otherwise anonymous section of society and reminds it that we are their brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers. Lastly, it gives our allies a chance to step forward with us and stand in vigil.
Each year, there are a number of TDOR events held throughout the UK. Not just in the traditional centres of LGBT population like Manchester, London and Brighton, but also places like Sheffield, Birmingham, Gloucester and Edinburgh. Add you voice and show your support. Show the 276 people murdered this year that they’re not forgotten.