UWL Pride Center honors transgender day of remembrance


Graduate Assistant for the Pride Center, Garrett Denning. Photo retrieved from the UWL Pride Center.

Maija Sikora, General Assignment Reporter

On Nov. 28, 1998, 35-year-old Rita Hester was stabbed to death in her apartment, two days before her birthday. One year later, advocate and writer, Gwendolyn Anne Smith organized a vigil in her honor, commemorating both Hester and all of those who have been victims of violence against transgender people.

Transgender Day of Remembrance has become a national phenomena celebrated annually on Nov. 20. 

“Transgender Remembrance Day is a national day of recognition intended to honor and remember the lives that are lost every year due to violence against the transgender community. As well as just to raise awareness about the Transgender Community, because it’s still very prevalent,” said Pride Center Peer Educator Sara Seymour. “We want to recognize that this is still something that happens in our country and in our world, as well as recognize that trans people do exist and that we support them. Every year we host a vigil to remember all the individuals who have lost their lives as well as the people we know and recognize as part of the community.” 

Trans people face a high risk of violence or gender-based persecution. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, “More than one in four trans people has faced a bias-driven assault, and rates are higher for trans women and trans people of color.”

In the isolated year of 2019, the United States recognized 21 transgender murders. In response, advocacy organizations such as the Trans Murder Monitoring Project exist to provide a platform for those who lack recognition. 

Map retrieved from transrespect.org

The transgender murder monitoring is a subproject of Trans Respect versus Transphobia, an organization whose goal is to provide resources to human rights organizations, as well as the general public.

The project, according to the organization’s homepage, is necessary due to a lack of trans representation in statistics. According to Advocate Journalist Trudy Ring, lack of support in statistics can be attributed to transphobia and lack of acknowledgment. 

“Transgender Americans are facing an epidemic of violence. Twenty-four of them were known to be homicide victims in 2018, although the actual number is likely higher, as undoubtedly some victims were misgendered by police or media, or their deaths not reported at all.”

“This year 21 lives have been lost. That number is definitely under-representative, because there are a lot of crimes that go unreported, as well as murders of transgender people that go unrecognized,” said Seymour. She also said the number doesn’t include individuals who have taken their own lives in response to persecution or structural violence.  

For those who have multiple marginalized identities, the violence surrounding them can look different. According to national press secretary Sarah McBride, “When there is a mix of misogyny, transphobia, and racism, people who live in the intersection of multiple identities, the violence they face can be inflamed by the multiplying prejudices,” 

“This year as part of the project, the other peer educators and I have been collecting photos of faculty and students on campus, holding signs that say things like ‘We support our Transfamily,’ ‘Trans lives Matter.’ We are going to have a big photo collage up at the event just to show that we have people on this campus that do support transgender individuals to let transgender students and faculty members know,” said Seymour.  

Seymour said that the Pride Center saw help from an overwhelming amount of students. 

The event will be held Wednesday, Nov. 20 from 11 .am. to 2 p.m. at the Hall of Nations in Centennial Hall. The candlelight vigil will be held after the weekly Queer Cinema showing; Unboxed in the Student Union at 7 p.m. 

For more information, contact Peer Educators Sara Seymour [email protected] or Garret Denning [email protected], or Program Director Willem Van Roosenbeek [email protected]

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