HRC Blog

TDOR: A Time to Remember, A Call to Action

Post submitted by Meghan Stabler, member of HRC's Board of Directors:

This week marked another list of those whose lives were aggressively taken through transphobia.

The Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) has become a global event held around this week each November to memorialize those who have been killed through anti-transgender violence. Since its emotional inception by Gwendolyn Ann Smith following the still unsolved murder of Rita Hester in November 1998, communities, allies and people of faith gather, often by candlelight, in solemn remembrance to read the names of those lost over the past twelve months.

While there is global representation of names one major fact demands more attention by all of us. It’s not just the rampant transphobia that lawmakers allow to exist around the world, or the horrific violence that befalls a trans victim, but it is the disproportionate number of murders that befall trans people of color.

As Monica Roberts, the incredible advocate and award-winning blogger of TransGriot, reminds us, “Race and class does matter in the trans community.” And it most certainly manifests itself in anti-trans murders, with the majority of those killed in the U.S. being trans women of color.

But, often when I attend memorials here in Texas or other States, the vast majority of the people in attendance and reading the names of the lost often don’t look like the people who we memorialize. We’ll shed a tear, be emotionally overcome about how heinous the crime was and lament that far too many people died. We’ll call it shameful, awful, demand action and call for it to stop. However, when the event is over we may depart the venue to decompress over dinner, share a meal with known friends and if we have one, go to our jobs in the morning and go to our community or organization meetings in the evenings. In all of these settings, we will barely see a non-white person’s face and not contemplate for one second that something is wrong with this picture.

What’s wrong with this picture is that our trans-sisters of color are doing far too much of the dying and not seeing themselves represented in the leadership ranks of our communities.

Consider these alarming stats – in the United States, 34 percent of trans people of color earn less than $10,000 a year. And due to bias, 32 percent lost a job and 48 percent were not hired for a job. Trans people of color have an even steeper and more difficult battle trying to get a basic doctor’s visit, mental health services, or HIV/AIDS related care.

We – white LGBT people – need to work in partnership with organizations in African-American, Latino, and Asian and Pacific Islander (API) communities to rectify this. We cannot tell their stories of discrimination as well as they can. Together we need to increase our commitment not only to improve the socioeconomic parity but to make it unacceptable to see trans people being massacred with little or no legal consequences.

I am committed to doing something about it and I hope others will to. We must work to together to reduce the number of murders in the Black, Latina and API trans communities. But we can’t stop there. In my advocacy work, I pledge to stand together with trans people of color in our shared efforts to make change and make policy. To bring true diversity to the work I am doing. 

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