On the 28 of November, 1998, Rita Hester was stabbed to death in her apartment for the crime of being her authentic self: a beautiful transgender woman. Rita was a confident woman who knew her identity from an early age, and who would never shy away from who she knew she was. That is what cost her her life. Like countless other murders of transgender people, the odds were that Rita’s murder would be ignored and forgotten. The crime was never solved and the press forgot about it after a few weeks, but this time the transgender community decided it would not let the murder be forgotten. This is the story of how Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) came to be:
It was a simple desire to raise awareness about Rita’s gender that sparked the first actions. Soon after her murder, a report by the Boston Herald referred to Rita by her male name assigned at birth. This demonstrated a complete lack of understanding for what members of the transgender community knew the murder was about: Rita being transgender. Days after, 50 transgender people and allies marched to the Boston Herald headquarters to protest this. While it didn't achieve any results, it had become clear that the transgender community had the willingness and ability to organize.
Inspired by Hester’s murder, Gwendolyn Ann Smith created a web project the same year called Remembering Our Dead to honor transgender homicide victims. The project gathered the stories of transgender people from around the world who were murdered out of hate. The list is still available, and it documents the lost lives to transphobia all the way back to the 1970s. But unfortunately, this is not history. It's the present. Across the globe, transgender people are murdered at extremely high rates, and little is done to protect them.
"When the Transgender Day of Remembrance first began, trans people were nameless victims in many cases," Smith wrote in 2014 in The Advocate. "Our killers would do their best to erase our existence from the world. And law enforcement, the media and others would continue the job."
So that is what TDOR is: A day to raise awareness about the murders of members of the transgender community. This is a statement by TDOR organization:
“The Transgender Day of Remembrance serves several purposes. It raises public awareness of hate crimes against transgender people, an action that current media doesn’t perform. Day of Remembrance publicly mourns and honors the lives of our brothers and sisters who might otherwise be forgotten. Through the vigil, we express love and respect for our people in the face of national indifference and hatred. Day of Remembrance reminds non-transgender people that we are their sons, daughters, parents, friends and lovers. Day of Remembrance gives our allies a chance to step forward with us and stand in vigil, memorializing those of us who’ve died by anti-transgender violence.”
What can we do?Now that you know about the meaning of this day, you are probably thinking about what each of us can do to fight back against discrimination. The most important tool we have is education. By educating others on the issues that the transgender community is facing, we are replacing ignorance with empathy. It will take all of us to fight together to end transphobia and all other kinds of discrimination towards the LGBTQ+ community. That is why being a part of a community like Pride Palace is so crucial to the movement. On top of fostering a community of pride and educating each other on the issues the LGBTQ+ community faces, Pride Palace also makes donations to organizations like Stand With Trans, which provides transgender people and and their families with extremely important resources to empower them. Each of your purchases from Pride Palace directly support LGBTQ+ organizations, so by wearing Pride Palace products you are raising awareness AND supporting key groups fighting for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community. Here is all of our Transgender Pride Products, and make sure to share this article. Stay tuned for more!