Twenty years ago, and two days before her 35th birthday Rita Hester, an African-American transgender woman was murdered in Allston. Her death was the catalyst for Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) which is observed every November 20 as people all over the world hold vigils to honor Ms. Hester and memorialize those who have been killed since.
We will mark the 19th year of Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) with a vigil in the Sanctuary on Tuesday the 20 at 7:00 p.m. In this reflective service we will honor the memory of those whose lives have been lost in acts of anti-transgender violence. For almost two decades, TDoR has helped raise awareness of violence committed against transgender and gender non-conforming people and publicly mourns and honors the lives of those who might otherwise be forgotten. It is a day that allows us to stand up collectively in opposition to anti-transgender hatred and prejudice.
Mr. Barb Greve who served as FUUSN’s Interim Director of Lifespan Religious Education from 2009-2012 writes about the meaning and importance of TDoR. “We need to publicly process this pain. Not just for the transgender and genderqueer communities, but for all of us. We need to wail and grieve the loss of life. Our Allies need to be reminded of the urgency that drives us to work to change the world. Potential Allies need to be taught that lives are literally at stake. And those who are just noticing that there are transgender/genderqueer people in the world need to know that every time we leave our homes we are isking our lives. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.
Those of us still living need to be reminded that we are not only the survivors, but that our lives matter. What makes today a complicated day is that while we have set aside a day for memorializing our dead we’ve not yet set aside a day for celebrating the living. The unintended message we are giving, particularly to our newest members of the community, is that your death, and more particularly your murder, has more meaning to our community than your life. When will we set aside a day (or multiple days) to celebrate the wonderfully diverse and beautiful ways in which we live our “gender non-conforming” lives? When will we gather in communities to praise the good deeds and healthy living of transgender and genderqueer folks among us?
I yearn for a time when instead of memorializing transgender and genderqueer individuals who have been killed for living their/our lives authentically, we will take time to celebrate the gifts these individuals offer our communities. Until then I will attend the vigils, not only to remember the lives lost, not only to offer to the transgender communities a supportive religious voice, but to remind myself and others that we are surviving and our lives do matter.”