By Molly Igoe
The number 325 was repeated throughout this year’s Transgender Day of Remembrance. It represents the number of reported murders of transgender and gender-diverse people as of September.
“This number, 325, doesn’t include suicides, it doesn’t include deaths that occurred from natural causes like heart attacks; these were murders, these were vicious murders that were caused because these people had chosen to live who they are,” said Claire Hansen, president of Parents & Friends of Lesbians and Gays Mid-Shore.
Collected by the group Transgender Europe, their Trans Murder Monitoring project, which started in April 2009, “systematically monitors, collects, and analyses [sic] reports of homicides of trans and gender-diverse people worldwide,” according to their website. To see the full TMM report and data, visit www.transrespect.org/en/tmm-update-trans-day-remembrance-2017/.
The service was held in Norman James Theatre in William Smith Hall on Monday, Nov. 20. According to a Washington College press release, “Transgender Day of Remembrance is an annual observance on Nov. 20 that honors the memory of those whose lives were lost in acts of anti-transgender violence.”
The service was sponsored by Encouraging Respect of Sexuality; Trans and Nonconforming Gender Association; the Rose O’Neill Literary House, and PFLAG Mid-Shore.
Hansen said that there are two PFLAG pilot chapters in Chestertown and Easton. The Easton chapter has a meeting on Thursday, Dec. 7, and Hansen said that the Chestertown chapter holds meetings every third Tuesday. For more information on meeting times and events, visit pflagchestertown.blogspot.com/.
“The planning process [for the service] has been going on for the past six months…[Barbara] Bedell [secretary of PFLAG Mid-Shore] was more involved in the performance aspect. I was only in charge of scaling it back, because in the past, in my opinion, they’ve tried to do too much with the event and it becomes less of a vigil and more performative,” she said.
Senior John Baker, president of E.R.O.S., said that they attended monthly PFLAG meetings as part of the planning process. They suggested ideas that would encourage other students to get involved with the service.
Bedell began the service with a simple statement. “We are here to honor transgender people whose lives have been taken due to hatred and prejudice. We hope to raise awareness, reject bias, and honor them with action,” she said.
Attendees walked up to the podium to read the names of those killed in the U.S., with cards that explained how they were killed, and what loved ones said about them. After each name was read, a bell rang out. Bedell then read the names of the 49 victims from the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando in June 2016.
Bedell, Hansen, and other members of PFLAG and E.R.O.S. read the names of those who were murdered in various countries, including Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, South Africa, and Sweden.
The lists from Brazil and Mexico took over 15 minutes to read. According to the TMM report, 171 of the reported murders occurred in Brazil and 56 occurred in Mexico.
Many of the victims were unable to be identified, and were called “unknown.” A moment of silence was held to recognize all the victims.
Participants were also encouraged to read from poetry and literature.
Junior Rachael Walloga said, “I didn’t plan on speaking. Remember that they’re not just names, but people, brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers. We honor them in our hearts. We are stronger together.”
To close, Bedell read a speech from the former United Nation’s high commissioner for human rights, Navanetham Pillay, who said that, “Those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, are humans and entitled to be treated as such.”
Hansen said that she was happy with the student turnout at the event, and that it was larger than it has ever been in the past.
In terms of how the larger campus community can help, Bedell said, “If you see something say something, and get help if you can’t be help.”
“I think there’s a lot more that we can do just day-to-day; it begins by embracing people who are other than yourself, and it extends to reaching towards experiences that may be outside your own,” Hansen said.