Nov. 20 is Trans Day of Remembrance, and community members in New Haven came together to commemorate lives lost and celebrate trans fightback.
About 80 people came together to speak out at a gathering supported by a number of organizations and spearheaded by the New Haven Pride Center and the Party for Socialism and Liberation. This event was the final culmination of Transgender Awareness Week, a week featuring daily trans visibility and justice events ranging from performances to activist gatherings to movie showings to educational forums.
On TDOR itself, organizers held a rally on the courthouse steps, followed by a march to New Haven’s Pride Center. The event was held to commemorate those who have been murdered as victims of transphobia, and acknowledge the continuing violence that faces trans people. Representatives from local organizations and community members, mostly trans people, spoke at the event.
Those present at the event called out the names, ages, and cities of the 26 trans people murdered in 2017. Following this, community organizers spoke, expressing messages of pain and remembrance, but also messages of hope for the future of the trans community.
“I want everybody here today to have a success story,” said Am Norgren of the LGBTQ Space of Waterbury. “I want today not just to be a day of mourning, I want today to become a day of resilience!”
Speakout emcees IV Staklo and Chardonnay Merlot highlighted the importance of both remembering lives lost and finding strength for a renewed fight for the living. “We need to squad up,” said PSL member Merlot, stressing the need for community members sticking together and fighting back against systemic injustice.
Elliot Ezcurra, a peer advocate and PSL organizer from Massachusetts, spoke on the importance of recognizing the sources of violence against the trans community. “In my work as a peer advocate,” they said, “I see so many trans people who are facing violence, or who are forced into circumstances that make them consider ending their lives. Those in power are not helping us, and more often than not are the ones hurting us. The people helping are people like us — those in our community who check in on each other and fight like hell to make sure everyone has what they need to survive. If you’re angry as well, and want to make a real difference, please consider joining an organization fighting for real change.”
Speeches were punctuated by chants: “What do we do when trans lives are under attack?” “Stand up, fight back,” expressing resistance within the trans community and among its allies.
Among those who spoke was Raven Matherne. Matherne is a recently elected to the Board of Representatives of Stamford, Conn. She expressed the difficulty of facing hate on the campaign trail, and the need for increased representation of trans lawmakers.
Sophia, a local trans community member and worker, shared a powerful message about anger being right in the face of hate and erasure. She thanked the people who have stood by her in the activist community and named several common instances of transphobia, ranging from outright violence to refusal to respect people’s names and pronouns. She called out abuse in families, schools, workplaces and religious institutions.
Maia Leonardo, an organizer with the ANSWER Coalition, spoke on the need for resistance and struggle across lines of marginalization. “[We must] struggle against neocolonialism,” she said. “These are the institutions that want to erase trans people and other marginalized people. All our struggles are connected. Make today a Trans Day of Revolt against the systems that oppress us!”
Following a number of other speeches, which included representatives from Planned Parenthood, GLSEN, Trans At Yale and many other groups, the people marched to the New Haven Pride Center, where those present at the rally and others gathered to network, get free food and clothing and learn more about organizations in the city. AIDS Project New Haven provided free HIV testing.
The event also featured a photographic art project. One wall of the Pride Center displayed the faces and names of trans individuals murdered in 2017. A wall opposite it will soon display photographs of some trans people who participated in this year’s Trans Day of Remembrance events, featuring photos taken by Am Norgren.
Trans Day of Remembrance has been honored around the U.S. for the past 18 years, since the first commemoration of trans lives following the murder of Rita Hester, a Black trans woman. In New Haven, TDOR has been an important event for years and has continuously grown from a small series of vigils to this year’s week-long series of events. It is crucial to continue building events both in commemoration of tragedy and in continuation of struggle.