More than 70 people attended Denton’s Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR), which was held at Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, featuring speakers and a reading of the 331 names lost to anti-transgender violence this past year.
TDOR is a collaborative program between UNT’s Pride Alliance and OUTreach Denton, a community organization for LGBT+ youth and adults and funded by the DFW Human Rights Campaign. The first TDOR was held in 1999 to memorialize a trans woman named Rita Hester. The day is now observed by many communities all over the country.
James Jackson, OUTReach steering committee member and social media officer, said that the violence has existed for decades and is only increasing.
“We need to face the reality that those primarily affected are trans women of color,” Jackson said. “If you’re surprised by that, you haven’t been paying attention. We shouldn’t have to hold public vigils to get the message across – stop killing us. Trans lives matter. Black trans lives matter.”
Although it was important that the vigil was in a public area for visibility and awareness, there were also risks, Jackson said.
“For me, the risk is worth it if it means any kind of progress toward a world where we no longer have to hold a vigil for the all those murdered because of fear and hate,” Jackson said.
Jackson, who identifies as a trans man, said it meant a lot to him when Denton started observing TDOR.
“It meant that Denton cared about the lives of transgender people as much as my friends and I do,” Jackson said. “There is nothing quite like being able to drive a few blocks to grieve in a safe space with those in the queer and trans community.”
Natch Azure, a recent UNT graduate, read their poem “She is Beautiful”, which was about the trans women of color who are murdered every year. Azure wrote it last summer after the murders of Muhlaysia Booker and Chynal Lindsey in Dallas.
“I was thinking of the phrase we often use, ‘rest in power’, and about the imagery of the candles we hold every year to represent them,” Azure said. “I wanted to write something to give agency back to these women… that they are beautiful and strong and indivisible even still. They always will be.”
To Azure, TDOR is not only a day about raising awareness, but also a day of reflection.
“We can’t have a future without a past,” Azure said. “We can’t stop the bleeding without seeing the wound. We remember those who were taken because we can’t leave them behind.”
The night concluded with the reading of the names and candlelight vigil. With each name read, OUTreach committee members handed attendees a tealight candle to represent a lost life. UNT Pride Alliance director and OUTreach steering committee member Kathleen Hobson took turns with fellow members to read the names out loud.
“It’s important to recognize the weight and the gravity of the rates of folks that are being murdered because of their trans identity,” Hobson said.
The number of names this year is actually underreported, Hobson said. Of the deaths that were reported, many names were still simply read as “unknown”.
“It’s sometimes the fault of the police that register that information,” Hobson said. “Sometimes it’s an issue with the family not wanting to recognize that person as a trans person in their death.”
Hobson said they tend to get caught up in the logistics of planning and organizing every year and is hit by the emotional ride just a few days before the event.
“It feels really important to me to connect with not only the mourning and remembrance piece, but the resilience,” Hobson said. “Yeah, like we’re still here. There are still things to fight for and to keep working for.”
Featured Image: Attendees of the Transgender Day of Remembrance Labyrinth Walk stand under their umbrellas while other participants make their way through the labyrinth on Nov. 20, 2019. Image by Isabel Anes