Transgender Day of Remembrance honors lost lives, inspires education

Julia Trowbridge

Editor’s note: Some of the names of individuals quoted in this article have been changed to remain anonymous. 

Colorado State University students honored the lives lost in the transgender community through a national annual event.

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CSU’s Pride Center hosted a Transgender Day of Remembrance Nov. 15 to honor the lives of people in the transgender community who were killed because of prejudice. The event included speakers, a listing of names of those who died because of their gender identity and a candlelight vigil in honor of those who have died.

The Transgender Day of Remembrance is an annual event that started in 1998 after the killing of Rita Hester, a transgender African American woman, in order to raise awareness of violence against the transgender community and to honor lives lost. Each year has been increasingly deadly to the transgender community, especially to transgender women of color, said V, the MC for the event who asked to remain anonymous. 

“To remember their deaths is important,” V said. “To put a name to a problem and demand that it be fixed is how we change what society is. But it is equally imperative that we recall their lives, for this is how we’re able to fully honor their memory and come together as a community to make these changes.”

Knowing the systems of oppression and how they are affecting us and others around us, isn’t going to help anyone if you don’t do anything about it. Yes, you might think you know what intersectionality is, but do you understand it?” – Jordan

The first of four speakers, who asked to go by Jordan to remain anonymous, spoke about their personal struggle with their gender identity and gender dysphoria, which is distress resulting from the person’s sex and gender.

Jordan talked about their experiences with mental illness dealing with their gender identity, as well as struggles of being a person of color, with the white transgender community not accounting that into what transgender people of color might be going through.

“They understood the plights of dysphoria, existing in a transphobic society, but they didn’t understand what it meant to be trans and a person of color at the same time,” Jordan said. “There was no place for me, no community. I just want to be noticed, I want to be heard and I want to be validated.”

Jordan also talked about the history of the Transgender Day of Remembrance and highlighted that there are higher death rates for transgender people of color. With this information, Jordan called on the audience to not be idle with their activism and support for transgender individuals, especially transgender people of color.

“Is standing by idly and expecting the fact that you know about black trans women are dying at alarming rates a valid form of action?” Jordan said. “Knowing the systems of oppression and how they are affecting us and others around us, isn’t going to help anyone if you don’t do anything about it. Yes, you might think you know what intersectionality is, but do you understand it?”

To remember their deaths is important. But it is equally imperative that we recall their lives, for this is how we’re able to fully honor their memory and come together as a community to make these changes.” – V

The event also hosted two community speakers: Dylan Cowart, a Poudre High School student that works with Supporting Pride Learning and Social Happenings, and Logan Anderson, a community member who also works with SPLASH.

Cowart spoke about his experience with coming out as transgender in the eighth grade and the educational moments he and his teachers got from learning about how to respect identity in the educational setting.

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“Teachers have an incredibly powerful role in shaping the minds of the next generation, far beyond the basics of math and grammar,” Cowart said. “Teachers teach us how to exist in the world.” 

Anderson also spoke about their personal experiences with bullying and harassment and how they came to terms with their identity. Additionally, Anderson spoke on other stories, mainly transgender women of color, and the senseless violence they face, especially.

“Transphobia takes place in many forms, but we are here today due to the violence enacted onto a small community by transphobia,” Anderson said. “Transgender people are more than a statistic. They are humans, living their every day lives, living their authentic selves, and who were murdered and killed because of who they are.”

The night concluded with the final speaker, Atlas Tanudjaja, a spiritual care resident at CSU, and a reading of the names of people lost to transphobic violence. Tanudjaja spoke on learning how to grieve the lives they were remembering with this event and the differences between Asian cultures, where they grew up, and America.

“Growing up with these missionary kids from Arkansas got me dreaming about America, the land of the free,” Tanudjaja said. “I realize, yeah, sure, this land is free-er. Without being here, I would not have been able to actualize as a queer person, but on some level, this land is not free enough.”

Collegian reporter Julia Trowbridge can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @chapin_jules.