3 Powerful Ways to Observe Transgender Day of Remembrance

By Miriam Zoila Pu00e9rez Nov 19, 2015

For the past 16 years, activists have taken time in November, usually around the 20th, to recognize people who have died due to anti-trans violence. This commemoration, founded by Gwendolyn Ann Smith and first celebrated in San Francisco, is known as Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR). Noting that anti-transgender violence "refers to attacks against people who are perceived as transgender—regardless of how one may personally identify," Smith wrote about TDOR’s impetus for the Huffington Post in 2012: 

It all started one night, when I spoke with a few other transgender people about the murder of Rita Hester in November 1998. I talked about how similar the death was to that of Chanelle Pickett just three years before. Both were transgender women of color who lived in Massachusetts, were last seen alive at a neighborhood club and died in mid-November.

No one I spoke with then knew who Chanelle Pickett was, even though the trial of her murderer, William Palmer, had ended only months before Hester’s death. It seemed clear to me then that we were forgetting our past, and were—to paraphrase George Santayana—doomed to repeat it.

Of course violence against all transgender people matters, but advocates have long maintained that trans people of color—particularly women—face a disproportionate amount of it. Data is hard to come by, but the Southern Poverty Law Center recently reported that in the first two months of 2015, seven trans women of color were murdered—almost one woman per week. Communities around the world have found their own ways to commemorate TDOR, including vigils, rallies, marches and other gatherings. Here are three things you can do:


Attend an event and say their names. 


Many TDOR events are centered around a vigil or memorial where the names of all of the people lost to anti-trans violence that year are read aloud. Smith, the day’s founder, maintains a website that lists victims around the globe. A journalist who blogs under the moniker "Lexie Cannes" maintains another list. To find an event in your area, check out Smith’s listing or the Trans March of Resilience Facebook page, which has events specifically hosted by trans people of color.


Lift up the work of trans and gender non-conforming artists.




The Strong Families movement is presenting a series of striking images under the banner of "Trans Day of Resilience," a re-imagining of what it means to memorialize transgender people’s lives. "Trans Day of Resilience goes beyond remembrance, and uplifts the resilience and power of trans and gender non-conforming communities of color," the group wrote in a press statement. Forward Together, the group that houses Strong Families, commissioned pieces by eight trans and gender non-conforming artists and paired each of them up with an organization that supports trans communities. Take a look at the website and share the art.




Support organizations that work to improve the lives of trans people.


Many activists have pointed out that while we need to honor people who have died, we should also support those who are alive. There are a number of organizations around the country working to improve the lives of transgender people of color. Here is a non-exhaustive list, in alphabetical order:

The Audre Lorde Project is a community organizing center for LGBTQ people of color in New York City.

Casa Ruby is a bilingual and multicultural community center for transgender, genderqueer and gender non-conforming people in Washington, D.C.

Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement is a national organization that "addresses, organizes, educates, and advocates for the issues most important to our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) and Latino communities."

Sylvia Rivera Law Project works to increase access to social, health and legal services that are respectful and affirming of transgender people.

TGI Justice calls itself "a group of transgender people—inside and outside of prison—creating a united family in the struggle for survival and freedom."

Translatin@ Coalition concentrates on the needs of trans Latin@ immigrants in the U.S., with a focus on advocacy.

Trans Women of Color Collective amplifies the stories, leadership and lived experiences of trans and gender non-conforming people of color.

Note: Our roundup is in no way exhaustive. Please share information about your art, event or organization in the comments. Use trigger warnings for graphic descriptions or images of violence.