WASHINGTON — The White House on Tuesday marked the 14th annual observance of Transgender Day of Remembrance, an international day of remembrance of the people lost to anti-transgender fear, discrimination, and violence.
John Berry, Director of the Office of Personnel Management, led a group in a moment of silence to honor transgender victims of violence. Participating in the memorial were Mara Keisling, Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), Harper Jean Tobin, NCTE Director of Policy, and two dozen other transgender advocates.
In a meeting with White House staff, attending advocates and community leaders highlighted a range of issues and concerns of importance to transgender people.
Photo courtesy the National Center for Transgender Equality.
“Today, NCTE is in solemn vigil for the transgender people we’ve lost to senseless anti-transgender violence,” said Keisling, in a statement. “Transgender Day of Remembrance is a chilling reminder that the work we all do too often comes too late for many in our community. So, today, we reflect on the people we’ve lost. And tomorrow, we renew our commitment to ending the discrimination and violence that keeps many more of us imprisoned with fear.”
Gautam Raghavan, Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, issued this statement:
Throughout America and around the world, many transgender people face bullying, harassment, discrimination, and violence. Far too often, we hear shocking and tragic stories about transgender people who have been assaulted and even killed because of their gender identity or expression. The Obama Administration is committed to preventing violence against all people, including all members of the LGBT community, and this meeting was an important opportunity to explore ways to make our communities and neighborhoods safer.
As we mark Transgender Day of Remembrance and reflect upon the lives that have been lost to violence and injustice, let us all recommit ourselves to ensuring dignity, equality, and justice for all people.
“To have a senior Administration official leading us in commemorating transgender victims of violence is a good thing” said Keisling. “But to have President Barack Obama‘s commitment to solving anti-transgender violence affirmed in today’s meeting is a great thing.”
Labor Secretary Hilda Solis also marked the day with this statement:
“I stand proudly today — and every day — as an ally to the transgender community and to every person and family impacted by anti-transgender bullying and violence. Transgender people are part of the diversity that America celebrates today and they, like every American, deserve to live without fear of prejudice or violence.”
Transgender Day of Remembrance was started by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith in response to the murder of Rita Hester, a popular and outgoing transgender woman, who was brutally stabbed at least 20 times in the chest in her Boston apartment by an unknown assailant in November 1998.
Hester’s death prompted community members to organize a candlelight vigil and march that December. Activists in San Francisco created the Transgender Day of Remembrance event in 1999 in her memory.
Hester’s murder — like most anti-transgender murder cases — has yet to be solved. Although not every person represented during the Day of Remembrance self-identified as transgender — that is, as a transsexual, cross-dresser, or otherwise gender-variant — each was a victim of violence based on bias against transgender people.