By Liz Massey, Nov. 6, 2014,
As part of Transgender Awareness Month, the Valley’s LGBT community and their allies will gather Nov. 23 to remember transgender individuals who lost their lives to violence in the past 12 months.
According to Erica Keppler, a member of the ad hoc committee organizing the local observance of the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR), this year’s gathering will be held on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, instead of being held on the official TDOR date of Nov. 20.
Trans people and supporters will meet at the lawn in front of the Arizona State Capitol at 5 p.m. and hold what Keppler termed a “calm, peaceful event” recognizing those who have been murdered because of their gender identity.
The local observance is part of a larger international TDOR movement, which began in 1998. In addition to providing public recognition of those murdered, the event also highlights the risks trans people face from individuals who choose to channel their bias into acts of assault and murder.
“Even a lot of trans people don’t always appreciate (how) anti-trans sentiment can translate into extreme violence,” Keppler said. “Often, it is cisgendered men inflicting violence on trans women ... They will attack a trans person on a personal level to avoid questioning themselves.”
While awareness is a key component to the observance, the event is not intended to be overtly political, Keppler added. “It’s a respectful memorial,” she said.
Local organizers expect a crowd of 60 to 100 attendees. While Rev. Charlotte Strayhorne will speak and a community musical group may perform, the centerpiece of the gathering will be the reading of the names of the transgendered individuals murdered since last November who have been listed on the TDOR site (tdor.info).
Keppler said audience members will read the names and light a candle in their honor, providing a visual representation of the lives lost.
While anti-trans bias is still clearly present in the Valley, Keppler said that State Rep. John Kavanaugh’s proposed 2013 “bathroom bill” had ironically provided a major boost to positive public perceptions of trans people. The bill would have required trans people to present proof of their gender via a birth certificate or other document if their presence in a public bathroom was challenged.
“Kavanaugh’s bill generated a lot of positive goodwill toward trans people,” she said. “It vividly demonstrated the prejudice against us and made us the underdogs. In the end, his actions did more to prove that the animosity against us has no rational basis.”
The TDOR observance in Phoenix is free and open to the public.
Facts about TDOR and violence against trans people
The Transgender Day of Remembrance was created originally to honor Rita Hester, whose murder on Nov. 28, 1998, kicked off the construction of the “Remembering Our Dead” web project (now offline) and a San Francisco candlelight vigil in 1999.
Rita Hester’s murder — like most anti-transgender murder cases — has yet to be solved.
The Transgender Violence Tracking Portal, which opened in April 2014, received 102 reports of anti-transgender violence from Jan. 1 to April 30, 2014.
Transgender people are estimated to make up 1 to 1.5 percent of the world’s population but are about 400 times more likely to be assaulted or murdered than the rest of the population.
Phoenix Transgender Day of Remembrance
5 p.m. Nov. 23
Lawn of the Arizona State Capitol
1700 W. Washington St., Phoenix.