November 20 is Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR). The annual remembrance grew from a vigil held by Gwendolyn Smith in memory of her friend, Rita Hester. In November 1998, Rita Hester was murdered in her apartment in Boston. Her murder has never been solved.
As a Black transgender woman, Rita was statistically more likely to be a victim of violence. The United States Human Rights Campaign has gathered statistics regarding murders of transgender people, showing that Black transgender women are disproportionately more likely to be victims of homicide. NBC News compiled and analyzed the statistics to learn that of 231 transgender and gender non-conforming people killed in the US between 2103 and mid-2021, 158 were transgender women. Of those women, almost 4 out of 5 were Black.
Today, TDoR commemorates all transgender people lost to violence and helps raise the visibility of the issues transgender people face daily. Gwendolyn Smith describes the day in this way: "Transgender Day of Remembrance seeks to highlight the losses we face due to anti-transgender bigotry and violence. I am no stranger to the need to fight for our rights, and the right to simply exist is first and foremost. With so many seeking to erase transgender people -- sometimes in the most brutal ways possible -- it is vitally important that those we lose are remembered, and that we continue to fight for justice."
Anyone can participate in TDoR by attending or organizing a gathering to honor those lost and to learn about the community. Gatherings can take many forms, but typically include a vigil and/or reading of names of those lost in the local community, discussion forums, “Trans 101” trainings, and artistic components of all kinds, from movie showings to poetry readings to visual art shows. The GSA network has a helpful online guide for organizing an event here. Online resources for those unable to attend an event in person include GLAAD, PFLAG, and GSAnetwork.
During the Tuesday, Nov. 16 formal City Council meeting, Mayor Pro Tem Mazahir Salih proclaimed Saturday, Nov. 20 as Transgender Day of Remembrance in Iowa City. The proclamation was submitted by the Human Rights Commission and accepted by United Action for Youth. The proclamation can be read here.
The Transgender Pride Flag will be flown at City Hall on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021.