Trans Day of Remembrance is held every year on Nov. 20 to remember the lives of trans and gender nonconforming people who have been murdered in the year prior. The day was created in 1999 by advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith in honor of Rita Hester, a trans woman murdered in 1998.
A total of 33 transgender and gender nonconforming people have been killed in the US since last year’s Day of Remembrance, with 26 lives being taken in 2023 specifically, according to Human Rights Watch. Transgender people only make up an estimated 1% of the adult population of the US, but they are four times more likely to be the victims of violent crime.
Rowan University honored the somber day this year in a number of ways. The Wellness Center set up an evergreen tree outside of the building. Students and faculty wrote messages of love, acceptance, and support to the trans community on laminated note cards, which were then hung with string from the tree.
Cards for messages were available on Nov. 20, when a vigil and recitation of names was held. Messages were also collected at various drop boxes across campus in the lead-up to the event. Anyone passing by is able to go to the tree and read the messages.
Romana Bresin is a counselor and coordinator of gender, relational, and sexual diversity at the Wellness Center.
“The fact that this day is relatively not well known, is a great place to start and kind of just getting the word out about, one that it exists, to the fact that it has to exist. I really wish that it didn’t have to exist and hope that one day we won’t have to honor anyone who’s been killed for being trans or for being gender non-binary,” said Bresin.
In the windows around the tree, the photos and names of the deceased were displayed, with votives under each illuminating them against the darkness of the brisk evening.
The names of those killed within the country were read by Wellness Center staff. One of the dogs from the Shreiber Family Pet Therapy Program, Ralphie, was present for students in attendance if they felt distressed. Counselors were also inside the building after the service for anyone who felt the need to talk about their feelings.
Elijah Buckwalter is a student therapist at the Wellness Center.
“I thought it was a very nice service to remember all the people that we’ve lost over the year. It’s a difficult thing to talk about, but I think our team over here did a really good job… conveying the loss and hardships experienced by trans community and bringing that into light,” said Buckwalter.
The Office of Social Justice, Inclusion, and Conflict Resolution honored the lives lost across the world in the last year on their Instagram page, also including suicide victims who were subjected to violence in the list.
“In the past year (October 2022 to September 2023), a devastating total of 347 transgender individuals lost their lives, either through violent acts targeted at them due to their gender identity or as a result of suicide stemming from such violence. Fifty-one of these incidents occurred within the United States. This statistic underscores the urgent need for ongoing efforts to combat gender-based violence and safeguard the rights and lives of transgender individuals worldwide,” read the Rowansjicr Instagram post.
SJICR honored the day by displaying the photos of the victims in their office, as well as leaving out a transgender pride flag and markers so that students could sign their names and write messages on the flag to show support to the community.
“I would say… for folks to educate themselves, there’s a lot of great resources online. HRC [Human Rights Campaign] is a good place, to go the Wellness Center website… has a whole section on gender diversity, with resources there too. So if people are wondering, like, where to start, there or SJICR’s website, would probably be great… We can’t ever learn too much,” said Bresin.
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