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  • Writer's pictureJess Newton

Transgender Day of Remembrance

Transgender Day of Remembrance is an annual observance that began in 1999, to honour and remember transgender individuals who lost their lives in acts of anti-transgender violence. 


TDoR and Transgender Awareness Week also aim to draw attention to the discrimination and prejudice that transgender people still face in various aspects of life, and highlight ways that others can help.


What’s the history of Transgender Day of Remembrance?


Sadly, but perhaps unsurprisingly, this event has an unhappy beginning. Transgender Day of Remembrance was started in 1999 by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith as a vigil to honour the memory of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was killed in her home in Allston, Massachusetts, on 28th November 1998. Her death remains unsolved.


“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.”– Transgender Day of Remembrance founder Gwendolyn Ann Smith


Rita Hester became a catalyst for raising awareness about violence against transgender individuals and the larger issues faced by the transgender community. Following her death, vigils and protests were organised in her memory, with many LGBTQ+ activists and organisations using her story to highlight the ongoing discrimination, violence and lack of protection that transgender individuals often face.


What does transgender even mean, anyway?


The word transgender (or trans) is an umbrella term that covers anyone who doesn’t identify as the gender they were assigned at birth. This includes trans men and women, and some non-binary people may also identify as trans.


Gender identity is an individual person’s sense of their gender; it is how they experience, feel, view and label it. This is unique to each person, and is separate from the sex they were registered with at birth, although someone’s gender identity may align with this.


Contrary to historical Western beliefs, gender is not binary. This means that people do not necessarily identify as only ‘male’ or ‘female’. Some people view gender as more of a spectrum, with male identities at one end and female identities at the other. Other people reject the spectrum model because they feel that it does not fully encompass the nuances of non-binary gender identities. There are a number of different labels that people may use to describe their gender and everyone’s individual experience of their gender is valid.


Biological sex is based on a person’s biological characteristics, including their genitalia, their reproductive systems, the sex chromosomes in their body and the hormone levels they produce.


Just as gender is not binary, sex is not binary either; some people have differences in sex development (DSD). DSD refers to a group of conditions characterised by variations in genitalia, reproductive systems, chromosomes, hormones and/or other external sex characteristics. It means a person’s sex development is different to those who are biologically categorised as either ‘male’ or ‘female’. This is also known as differences in sex characteristics (DSC) or variations in sex characteristics (VSC). Some people with DSD may also identify as intersex. As the sex a person is registered with at birth is often based on genitalia, many people with DSD are registered as either male or female at birth based on their genitalia.


Sex registered at birth is the sex that is recorded when a baby’s birth is registered, usually based on their genitalia. This usually corresponds to a person’s biological sex, but may be different to their gender identity. This is sometimes referred to as ‘sex assigned at birth’, for example somebody might be assigned male at birth (AMAB) or assigned female at birth (AFAB). A person’s gender identity may or may not align with the sex they were registered with at birth and/or their biological sex. If someone’s gender identity is different to the sex they were registered with at birth, they may identify as transgender or non-binary.


A person who identifies as transgender might refer to themselves as a trans man or a trans woman:


·         A trans man typically describes someone who was registered as female at birth and identifies as a man.

 ·         A trans woman typically describes someone who was registered male at birth and identifies as a woman.

Other gender identities that may or may not identify as transgender can include: genderqueer, gender-fluid, pangender, polygender, bigender, agender and third gender.

It’s also important to remember that the feelings and experiences of every trans person are different, and you should never assume that just because one person prefers one thing that means this is a universal preference.


Okay, that’s great. But why does it affect me?


Now more than ever, trans people need allies. With politicians and the mainstream media currently amplifying the voices of those who stand against us, we need everyone to stand up for our rights. In 2020/21, a total of 2,630 hate crimes committed against trans people were recorded, a rise of 16% compared to the previous year. Despite this massive increase, the actual figure is likely to be much higher, as responses to the National LGBT Survey reported that a staggering 88% of trans people did not report the hate crimes that they experienced.


Wow. Count me in. So, what's happening for Transgender Day of Remembrance 2023?

There are many ways to mark Transgender Day of Remembrance. Despite the sorrowful reasons behind the occasion, it can be used to create a positive outlook for the future and to demonstrate how we can foster a new, more caring generation: by raising awareness, promoting diversity and cultivating tolerance.

You can participate in Transgender Day of Remembrance by attending a vigil on November 20th, to honour all those transgender people whose lives were lost to anti-transgender violence that year, and learning about the violence affecting the transgender community. Vigils are typically hosted by local transgender advocates or LGBTQ+ organizations, and held at community centres, parks, places of worship, and other venues. A vigil will often involve reading a list of the names of those lost that year. 

You can also:

·         Educate through workshops and educational programs.

·         Showcase positive role models and diverse media representation.

·         Learn about using respectful language and gender-affirming pronouns.

·         Support transgender-focused charities and events

·        Get involved with legal efforts for transgender rights by signing petitions, lobbying your MPs or even attending protests

It should be noted that this is not an excuse to relegate these actions to just one day a year; they are things that we should be doing all year round. However, Transgender Day of Remembrance 2023 serves as a great reminder of what we could be doing to help transgender people and a starting point for those who don’t know where to begin.



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