Transgender Day of Remembrance: Honoring the lives lost to violence

On Friday, Fort Collins will honor the 328 — and counting — lives lost to transgender violence worldwide this year. Each life memorialized in the ceremony marks someone who was murdered for being transgender.

“The nature of these crimes — which are extraordinarily violent — go beyond violence,” said Courteny Gray, director of the Denver Transgender Program and coordinator for the Fort Collins event.

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For the second year, Fort Collins is participating in the International Transgender Day of Remembrance. It is an event recognized by states across the nation and by countries including Canada, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Norway and South Africa.

“Every year there are more events around the country,” said Rex Fuller, marketing and public relations manager for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender  (LGBT) Center of Colo.

The memorial date was on Wed. Nov. 20, but the local event is being held on Friday.

The event will take place at Poudre Studio Artists and Gallery at 406 N. College. There will be a memorial, community meet and greet, and a silent auction whose proceeds will benefit programs of the GLBT Center of Colo.

“(Our community) needs support and love just like everyone else,” said Heather Camerer, the Northern Colorado coordinator of the GLBT Center of Colo.

Transgender people are those who are transsexual, cross-dressers, or otherwise gender-variant.

“One thing that is important to recognize is that being transgender is not a choice — being transgender is something that people are born with,” Fuller said.

According to Fuller, national surveys indicate that 90 percent of the U.S. population know someone who is gay or lesbian, but only eight percent say that they know someone who is transgender.

Oftentimes, violence against transgender community members is unspecified as hate crimes.

“Many episodes of anti-transgender violence go unreported and until recently many law-enforcement agencies did not keep statistics on these crimes so it is difficult to say what our exact history is,” Fuller said.

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According to Camerer, Colo. is a fairly accepting place for the GLBT community, but violence has been reported here as well.

One of the most well covered events in the state was a transgender woman who was beat to death with a fire extinguisher, a murder symbolic of the extreme violence displayed in these cases.

“It’s not just honoring the lives lost, it’s recognizing the violence that still exists,” Gray said.

Besides those who have been murdered, there are countless lives lost to suicide each year in the transgender community.

“For most people, it’s either a transition or dying — by their own hand or another’s,” Gray said.

Gray also emphasized the positive aspects of bringing GLBT members and allies together for the memorial.

“Transgender Day of Remembrance is a renewal and a doubling down to living out and proud,” Gray said.

“I think it helps people to build individual and collective strength, to see that many transgender people are living and thriving,” Foula Dimopoulos, the director of CSU’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Questioning (GLBTQQ) Center, wrote in an email to the Collegian.

CSU has become one of the most inclusive campuses nationwide, according to Dimopoulos.

“We are rated as one of the best campuses for LGBT people in the Campus Pride Index, and that is due to all of (our) partnerships and our students who have often asked about resources, education, etc.,” Dimopoulos wrote.

Transgender Day of Remembrance is another event the Fort Collins community has added to become a more inclusive and safe city for the GLBT community.

“We have a heck of a lot to offer this world,” Gray said.

Collegian Senior Reporter Mariah Wenzel can be reached at news@collegian.com. For more content, follow her on Twitter @mariahcwenzel.