“This year, it is very important to mark Transgender Day of Remembrance in light of the vitriolic campaign of the president-elect and increased hate crimes against immigrants, people practicing a specific religion, and the GLBT community,” said Zeke Christopoulos, director and organizer at North Carolina’s transgender organization “Tranzmission.”
Sunday, Nov. 20, was the 18th anniversary of Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR). It continues to be a solemn memorial to all transgender people killed locally and internationally as a result of anti-Transgender violence—the majority of those murdered being trans women of color.
This year, in addition to raising public awareness of anti-Trans violence, working-class and oppressed communities united not only to honor those killed but to celebrate transgender activists and allies still living and organizing. The mood this year was one of remembrance mixed with militant fight-back and a unanimous demand for unity and solidarity.
“We mourn today,” said author and activist Monica Roberts, a Black trans-woman from Houston, Texas, “Then we plan and fight for a better tomorrow.” Ms. Roberts was a keynote speaker at the University of Arizona’s TDOR event, hosted by the Southern Arizona Gender Alliance and the Associated Students of the University of Arizona Pride Alliance.
Almost 200 cities in twenty countries held TDOR events this year, which is a success. Unfortunately, it was also the deadliest year on record for trans people. “Every 29 hours, a transgender person is killed simply for being transgender,” says attorney and transgender organizer Abby Jensen. Unfortunately, that number does not include suicides or death of trans people as a result of being denied proper medical care.
This week, the U.S. Veterans Administration stopped funding sexual reassignment surgery for its transgender veterans, claiming a lack of funds. Earlier this year, however, President Obama announced a $1 trillion spending increase to create a new arsenal of smaller, more powerful nuclear weapons, clearly showing the government’s priorities regarding its obligation to meet the needs of its veterans and transgender service members.
In spite of ruling class attempts to marginalize and exploit transgender people, the larger working class is uniting and defending transgender people, as witnessed by the record numbers of allies from the wider, working class and oppressed communities who attended TDOR events, many for their first time, this past week.
Last Saturday, in South Central Los Angeles, activists demanded President Obama immediately pardon political prisoners including Chelsea Manning. Manning is a trans-woman, transitioning in U.S. military prison, where she currently serves a 36-year sentence for publicly exposing U.S. military war crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo. “We have to free them!”, said Lawrence Reyes, a long-time union organizer and Puerto Rican Independence activist. “Power concedes nothing without action.”
Reyes went on to proudly declare himself a socialist in solidarity with the transgender and other oppressed and working-class communities. “We have no voice in U.S. courts!” he said, drawing a parallel to the lack of political representation of both Puerto Ricans and transgender people inside the U.S. “It’s time to wake the people up, to free ourselves, and to treat each other with respect and dignity as human beings.”
A legacy of struggle
In Arizona, Monica Roberts reminded organizers, “We come from a legacy of rebellion and fighting [back], we cannot let up just because some unqualified idiot got elected to the White House.”
Transgender rights are human rights, she says, and the well-being of everyone is bound together in a way that cannot be untangled. As a result, Roberts says, “the movement can’t lose!”
Many of the speakers echoed the call to unite the struggles in order to overcome the challenges facing both the trans and wider working-class community, which are already enormous, even before Donald Trump takes office. Over 200 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced under the Obama administration, with 55 of those bills specifically designed to strip legal protection from transgender workers. Mississippi, North Carolina and Oklahoma have already passed so-called anti-trans “bathroom bills,” which deny transgender people equal access to public-owned facilities and have increased physical assaults by self-appointed “gender vigilantes” against women and young girls.
“Do not stand by while your rights are being infringed upon, stick up for yourself,” said 17-year-old Gavin Grimm, a transgender student whose discrimination case against his Virginia high school reached the Supreme Court last month. Take action now to unite the struggles and to win full rights for transgender and all oppressed people.