Today is the 16th Annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, a solemn tribute to those who have lost their lives to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice, and a day to raise awareness of the constant threat of brutality faced by the transgender community.
The annual event — founded in 1998 by Gwendolyn Ann Smith, a transgender graphic designer, columnist, and activist — was first held to honor Rita Hester, whose murder on November 28th, 1998, kicked off the “Remembering Our Dead” web project and a San Francisco candlelight vigil in 1999.
Rita Hester’s murder — like most anti-transgender murder cases — has yet to be solved.
Since then, hundreds of cities around the country and the world have hosted annual Transgender Day of Remembrance events in solidarity with transgender hate crime victims.
And although not every person represented during the Day of Remembrance self-identifies as transgender, each was a victim of violence based on bias against that person’s real or perceived gender identity or expression.
Statistics on anti-transgender violence are startling. A 2013 report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) report found that transgender people were 1.5 times more likely to face threats and intimidation compared to the broader LGBT community, and that 72 percent of anti-LGBT homicide victims were transgender women, significantly up from 53.8 percent in the previous year.
Sixty-seven percent of the victims were transgender women of color. Furthermore, seventy-eight percent of transgender children in grades K-12 reported being harassed in school, 35 percent physically assaulted, and 12 percent sexually assaulted, according to a 2011 report from the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National LGBTQ Task Force.
“The national crisis of anti-trans violence in this country continues with brutal intensity, and it seems like every day we mourn another tragic loss,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin, in a statement.
“On this Transgender Day of Remembrance, all Americans should feel responsible to help bring an end to this violence before it claims even one more innocent soul. The progress of equality has to reach everyone, and we are failing as a movement if we leave anyone behind,” said Griffin.