Transgender Day of Remembrance and Remembering Our Dead Project Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Supporters gathered in more than one hundred locations worldwide to observe the fifth annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, a memorial for those who were killed because of hatred and fear of individuals who are transgender or who otherwise are gender ambiguous.

Summary of Event

The Transgender Day of Remembrance was founded by Gwendolyn Ann Smith to memorialize, honor, and mourn transgender individuals who are killed each year in hate crimes. The original memorial took place in San Francisco in 1999, when one hundred people gathered in a candlelight vigil to honor male-to-female transsexual Rita Hester, who was stabbed to death in her home on November 28, 1998, in Allston, Massachusetts. By 2003, the Day of Remembrance had become an annual event, observed each November in more than one hundred locations in eight different countries. The seventh annual event was held in November of 2005. [kw]Transgender Day of Remembrance and Remembering Our Dead Project (Nov. 20, 2003) [kw]Remembrance and Remembering Our Dead Project, Transgender Day of (Nov. 20, 2003) [kw]Dead Project, Transgender Day of Remembrance and Remembering Our (Nov. 20, 2003) Transgender Day of Remembrance Remembering Our Dead Project Gender-based violence[gender based violence] [c]Transgender/transsexuality;Nov. 20, 2003: Transgender Day of Remembrance and Remembering Our Dead Project[2750] [c]Civil rights;Nov. 20, 2003: Transgender Day of Remembrance and Remembering Our Dead Project[2750] [c]Marches, protests, and riots;Nov. 20, 2003: Transgender Day of Remembrance and Remembering Our Dead Project[2750] [c]Organizations and institutions;Nov. 20, 2003: Transgender Day of Remembrance and Remembering Our Dead Project[2750] [c]Crime;Nov. 20, 2003: Transgender Day of Remembrance and Remembering Our Dead Project[2750] Smith, Gwendolyn Ann St. Pierre, Ethan Hester, Rita Teena, Brandon Araujo, Gwen

The unsolved murder of Hester prompted Smith to found both the Day of Remembrance and to launch the Web site Remembering Our Dead (www .rememberingourdead.org), an online memorial for victims of transphobic Transphobia hate crimes. Smith based the design of the project’s Web site—launched in February, 1999—on the Vietnam War Memorial after discovering through an online transgender community forum that even among those who are transgender, few are aware of how many transgender people are slain each year in transphobic hate crimes.

Remembering Our Dead was launched with a list of eighty-eight names. By 2003, there were more than three hundred names posted on the site, with thirty-eight new murders reported between November 20, 2002, and November 20, 2003. The memorial day and Web site are projects of Gender Education and Advocacy Gender Education and Advocacy (www.gender.org).

Transgender activist Ethan St. Pierre is another organizer involved with the two projects. His aunt Debra Forte was stabbed to death in a transphobic hate crime on May 15, 1995, in the greater Boston area; her name is listed on the site. St. Pierre is also a host of TransFM Internet Radio (www.transfm .com). He has been active in mobilizing other family members of victims to lobby Congress to include transphobic violence in hate crimes and employment rights legislation.

The two projects memorialize members of a vast cross-section of the transgender community. As Smith notes on the Remembering Our Dead site,

There is no “safe way” to be transgendered: as you look at the many names collected here, note that some of these people may have identified as drag queens, some as heterosexual cross-dressers, and some as transsexuals. Some were living very out lives, and some were living fully “stealth” lives. Some were identifying as male, and some, as female. Some lived in small towns, and some in major metropolitan areas.

What all had in common was that each was killed because they were transgender. By including the names of the dead on the Web site, Smith has ensured that their stories will not be forgotten.

The murders of transgender individuals are exceedingly violent, often involving multiple stab or gunshot wounds, strangling, burning, or mutilation of the victim. Misreporting a victim’s gender identity has been a common media blunder, particularly in cases involving transgender youth. In one case, Brandon Teena, who had been raped and murdered in 1993 at the age of twenty-one, personally identified as a man and used a man’s name. Yet the media referred to him by his birth name, Teena Brandon. (Brandon was the subject of the documentary film The Brandon Teena Story, 1998, and the feature film Boys Don’t Cry, 1999.) In another case, Gwen Araujo, who was seventeen years old at the time she was beaten, raped, and murdered in 2002, was most often identified in the media with male pronouns and her male birth name, despite her preferred identity and self-naming as female.

Male-to-female transsexuals are often mistaken for gay men, adding to the invisibility of transphobic hate crimes. In the initial coverage of Rita Hester’s murder, even Bay Windows—New England’s largest gay and lesbian newspaper—used male pronouns and wrongly referred to her as a “gay transgender person.” The Boston Globe used Hester’s male birth name and described her as a “cross-dresser.”

Significance

The vigils held during the Transgender Day of Remembrance honor the chosen gender identity of each murder victim; their names are read each year in cities all over the world in late November. The event raises awareness of hate crimes against transgender people, and it enables survivors of antitransgender violence to speak out. Together, the Remembering Our Dead project Web site and the Day of Remembrance function to document transgender history and the reality of hate crimes on the basis of gender identity.

Increased participation in the Day of Remembrance shows a growing international transgender community. The documentation of transgender hate crimes has been instrumental in political efforts to lobby for more stringent penalties for perpetrators of these murders in the United States, and for increased civil rights for transgender people. Most important, it has resulted in increased visibility and an increase in the political strength of the transgender community. Transgender Day of Remembrance Remembering Our Dead Project Gender-based violence[gender based violence]

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Califia, Patrick. Sex Changes: The Politics of Transgenderism. 2d ed. San Francisco, Calif.: Cleis Press, 2003.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Feinberg, Leslie. Transgender Liberation: A Movement Whose Time Has Come. New York: World View Forum, 1992.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Halberstam, Judith. Female Masculinity. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1998.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Lambda Legal and The National Youth Advocacy Coalition. “Bending the Mold: An Action Kit for Transgender Youth.” http://www.lambdalegal .org/cgi-bin/iowa/documents/record?record=1504.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Namaste, Viviane K. Invisible Lives: The Erasure of Transsexual and Transgendered People. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Nangeroni, Nancy, and Gordene O. MacKenzie. “National Transgender Day of Remembrance: Grace Stowell, Kathleen and Diana Hester, and Ethan St. Pierre.” GenderTalk Web Radio. November 26, 2001. http://www.gendertalk.com/real/300/gt338.shtml.

September 24, 1951: George Jorgensen Becomes Christine Jorgensen

August, 1966: Queer Youth Fight Police Harassment at Compton’s Cafeteria in San Francisco

November 21, 1966: First Gender Identity Clinic Opens and Provides Gender Reassignment Surgery

June 27-July 2, 1969: Stonewall Rebellion Ignites Modern Gay and Lesbian Rights Movement

July 31, 1969: Gay Liberation Front Is Formed

1978: Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association Is Founded

1992: Transgender Nation Holds Its First Protest

June, 1992: Feinberg Publishes Transgender Liberation

1993: Intersex Society of North America Is Founded

December 24, 1993-December 31, 1993: Transgender Man Brandon Teena Raped and Murdered

June 17, 1995: International Bill of Gender Rights Is First Circulated

1996: Hart Recognized as a Transgender Man

1998: Transgender Scholarship Proliferates

April 30, 2002: Transgender Rights Added to New York City Law

October 4, 2002: Transgender Teen Gwen Araujo Is Murdered in California

March, 2003-December, 2004: Transsexuals Protest Academic Exploitation

March 5, 2006: Brokeback Mountain, Capote, and Transamerica Receive Oscars

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