Activists and LGBT leaders across the globe are marking the 14th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance today as a means to raise awareness of the violent hate crimes perpetrated against transgender people and to remember those lost over the past year.
Held every year on Nov. 20, the vigil was founded by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith to honor Rita Hester after her murder in Massachusetts on Nov. 28, 1998. Hester's case, like many other incidents of violence against transgender people, remains unsolved. Studies consistently show violence against transgender people remains at staggeringly high levels. According to a 2011 report by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Program, 40 percent of murders against members of the LGBT community were against transgender women, particularly women of color.
The Trans Murder Monitoring Project reports that at least 265 transgender people have been murdered around the world since last Nov. 20, with 13 killed in the United States.
With vigils being held in hundreds of cities across the world, leaders from several LGBT-rights organizations have issued statements marking the important event.
"The Transgender Day of Remembrance seeks to highlight the losses we face due to anti-transgender bigotry and violence. I am no stranger to the need to fight for our rights, and the right to simply exist is first and foremost. With so many seeking to erase transgender people -- sometimes in the most brutal ways possible -- it is vitally important that those we lose are remembered, and that we continue to fight for justice."
— Gwendolyn Ann Smith, Transgender Day of Remembrance founder
"Today we commemorate our transgender brothers and sisters we’ve lost, and stand in solidarity against hate-based violence. Transgender people face violence at unfathomable rates and we must keep all those affected by these crimes in our memory so that we can see an end to this brutality.”
— Chad Griffin, Human Rights Campaign president
"With anti-transgender violence on the rise, we remember our colleagues, friends and family whose lives were taken simply because of who they are. We must stand together to end the violence, working every day to spread awareness and acceptance of transgender people."
— Herndon Graddick, Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation president
"The Task Force family joins in the somber commemoration of the Transgender Day of Remembrance. We hold in our hearts and thoughts those lost to anti-transgender hate violence. Let us all use this day to not only remember, but to rededicate ourselves to bringing an end to discrimination and violence against transgender people. As our national study shows, discrimination is pervasive and severe toward transgender and gender non-conforming people. The alarming personal stories and stats show that transgender people face injustice everywhere and in many ways. They fear for their livelihood, their safety, their ability to feed their families and have a roof over their heads. This is simply unacceptable. We must continue working toward a culture that affirms the dignity and worth of all people. Until no more of our transgender friends and family are lost to senseless hate violence, we must not rest."
— Rea Carey, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force executive director
“On this solemn day, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission mourns the loss of our transgender brothers and sisters whose lives were cut short by ignorance and hate. We call upon governments everywhere to eliminate discriminatory laws that encourage transphobic violence and to conduct popular education to respect the safety and dignity of all people, regardless of gender identity or expression.”
—Jessica Stern, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission executive director
"Today, NCTE is in solemn vigil for the transgender people we've lost to senseless anti-transgender violence. Transgender Day of Remembrance is a chilling reminder that the work we all do too often comes too late for many in our community. So, today, we reflect on the people we've lost. And tomorrow, we renew our commitment to ending the discrimination and violence that keeps many more of us imprisoned with fear."
—Mara Keisling, National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director
[Photo via Facebook courtesy of Transgender Day of Remembrance.]