I’m many things, including an average middle distance runner, a Scorpio and a superfan of 1983 critically acclaimed movie Flashdance. I’m also a trans woman and on the 20th November I attended a service at Loughborough as part of Trans Day of Remembrance.
CW: violent transphobia, racialised violence
Trans Day of Remembrance takes place every year on the 20th November and has done since 1999. It is a day to remember those who have been murdered each year because they were trans, because they had mannerisms or presented in a way that signified being trans and that is enough to make some people kill you. It’s unbearably unfair when a life is taken too early. When lives are taken because they are trans, it is systematic unfairness. We have this day to honour their memory and to reclaim a little bit of what has been taken away from the world by keeping them in our hearts.
The day also works to raise awareness about the violence trans people face. This violence overwhelming affects trans women and in particular trans women of colour, with 75% of trans women killed in the United States since 2010 being black. This racialised transphobia is not brought up to minimise the violence against trans men or white trans people but to acknowledge the unique violence black trans women face and to keep them at the forefront of our minds in both remembrance and for when we attempt to materially address the conditions of our society that lead to violence against trans people.
Of course, it is insufficient to just say that these people are killed because they are trans and some people hate trans people. We die because we so often find ourselves in situations in close proximity to violence where we have no protection, where we are vulnerable and are made to rely on precarious or dangerous means of getting by. We are put in these situations because capitalism punishes us for being trans and then, when we are poor, capitalism punishes us for that too. If we are serious about stopping the continuation of deaths that we are remembering on the 20th November, then we must think about the function of gender in capitalism and the relation of trans people’s labour with the capitalist mode of production.
Trans Day of Remembrance was necessarily introduced in 1999 in response to the murder of Rita Hester. New names are remembered every year and it becomes an expectation that a long list will be read out. For trans people, a long list of people who are like us and murdered each year is an expectation. Trans Day of Awareness can help to provide some perspective to those who are lucky enough to not have to think about that every other day.
Loughborough holds an emotional annual service that always gives the day the tenderness and importance it calls for. Across the country, other groups hold similar services. Some groups hold vigils, which are slightly different. Vigil is a Latin word that means to watch over the dead. In comparison to a service, vigils have a more inherent symbolic objection to the current status quo, with a long history of vigils being used as a form of protest. They call on observers to also think about the people being mourned.
Trans Day of Remembrance is important because we sometimes get desensitised by all the unfair, cruel things that we hear about, but if you pause and take a moment on the 20th November each year to think about those that have been killed by the violence towards trans people it can help to overcome this desensitisation. When you think of them, you might be sad, sorrowful or sympathetic, but I hope it also makes you angry. They didn’t die by accident. Anger is much more productive than sorrow and there is a Trans Day of Action in June every year for this reason. This day is both in contrast to the Trans Day of Remembrance and also goes naturally hand-in-hand with it. I know some people take issue with expressions of anger and insist instead on messages of peace and love, but anger and love are two sides of the same coin. I loved the trans people who have been killed and that’s why I’m seething all the time.