Trans Community Gathers in Remembrance
The Transgender Day of Remembrance ceremony for November 20th, 2012 was a beautiful but brutal reminder of the complicated life of a trans individual.
The event hopes to remind those in the LGBT community, as well as those outside of it, that the very real issue of transgender violence is an epidemic around the world. Over 120 people were in attendance – trans, allies, friends and family, people of all colors and creeds were in the room.
(For more detail as to why and how an event like this comes together, check out our long form preview here.)
The ceremony began with speeches from members of the trans community as well as allies. The first Unitarian Universalist church held the ceremony. Rev. Jeanne M Pupke opened the event with a welcome message.
“No one should feel alone or isolated tonight, for our witness is truth. Our witness is for love. We have come together because we wish to be standing with those who are standing on the side.”
Next, a candle lighting ritual was performed – 2 sets of candles, 1 set for the trans community, and 1 set for families, friends and supporters of the community. 10 candles total, 4 white for healing, 4 black for remembrance, and 2 red for protection.
Quillin Drew, of the Virginia Anti-Violence Project, gave a brief history of the ceremony. It began as a web project inspired by the unsolved death of a trans-woman from Boston in November 1998. By November the next year, the web project, “Remembering Our Dead” had grown in its power and influence, and the first candlelight vigil was held in San Fransisco – it has been held on November 20th around the world ever since. The Remember Our Dead project continues to collect names of those trans folks who have been murdered.
Locally, the event started when the Richmond Queer Space project gathered a small group of trans activists and allies in 2005. They held an outdoor vigil and small march through the Fan neighborhood. In 2007, the community gathered together and began a more structured TDOR event. Its been held every November ever since.
“We seek to create a culture in our community were trans voices and experiences are lifted up and where violence based on anti-transgender bias will not be accepted.” Said Quillin.
Next, a few trans individuals spoke from their personal experiences as well as about the community at large. Robyn Deanne talked about her coming out process – telling her former wife and church about her trans identity. Neither groups were receptive, and Deanne’s story hit home to many in the audience.
“For everything that affected me and for whatever you may think about how I express how it affected me, that’s not who I’m representing tonight – I’m representing the other side, the people who didn’t understand, the people who didn’t grow up with somebody like me. The people who don’t have a place to put me so when I come before them they don’t know what to do with me.”
Next, the solemn act of reading the names took place – a procession of 26 people, candles in hand, took turns saying the name and reading a brief story about each of the slain trans people remembered that night.
See the list of names and stories here
As the names were read, the readers formed a line stretching from one side of the auditorium to the other. A bell was run for each of the names, and as the bell rang, a candle would be blown out.
A song was sang by Jay Irvine – “Love Can Build a Bridge” by the Judds. It was a tearful moment as many in the audience thought of those they had lost, or sympathized with those who had lost.
In a somewhat lighthearted ending, JL Pressley, of Black Trans Men Incorporated, gave a rousing sermon. He invited all the trans individuals in the room to stand “Dont be ashamed, be proud of who we are,” he said. He then asked all partners of trans individuals to stand. “Look to your left and your right – we are family.”
Next, he asked allies to stand.
“We need you to stand with us on more than November the 20th… We need you to stand with us and be with us, the voice when our voices are muffled.”
Hear Pressley’s speech here:
Thanks to Kontra RVA for taking photos of the event and for the trans community members who helped us get our facts straight for this collection of stories.
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