On Tuesday evening, (Nov. 20), approximately 100 people observed the Hartford area’s 11th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance. Participants gathered at the Charter Oak Cultural Center and marched north on Main Street to a vigil at the Hartford Public Library. Speakers at the vigil included Anne Stanback, former executive director of Love Makes a Family, and state senator Beth Bye. During the vigil participants read the names of 40 transgender people around the world who’ve been murdered because of their gender identity over the past 12 months. The 40 names were drawn from a longer list of over 250 reported murders of transgender people. Speakers at the vigil reminded the crowd that there are likely many more such murders that have gone unreported.
After the vigil, participants gathered at the Metropolitan Community Church of Hartford for an interfaith worship service, followed by a fellowship hour.
The Transgender Day of Remembrance was established in 1998 as a way to memorialize people who have been murdered due to anti-transgender hatred and prejudice. It was originally inspired by the brutal murder in Boston of Rita Hester on (Nov. 28) of that year. Since then, the Transgender Day of Remembrance has become a global phenomenon, with events taking place every Nov. 20 in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, France, Greece, Italy, Ireland, Scotland, England, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, South Korea, Turkey, and almost all fifty states in the U.S. These events serve several purposes: they raise public awareness about ongoing violence against transgender people; they provide an opportunity for the transgender community and its allies to mourn in public and honor the lives of siblings who might otherwise be forgotten; they proclaim the dignity of transgender lives; and they inspire participants to dedicate their lives to the work of ending transphobic violence and, indeed, violence of all kinds.
This year’s Hartford-area observance was notable for the large number of people of faith who attended. Members of the Metropolitan Community Church where joined by members of the Unitarian Universalist Society: East in Manchester (where I serve as pastor) and the Universalist Church of West Hartford. Rev. Jan Nielsen of the Universalist Church spoke at the worship service. She talked about her congregation’s decision a decade ago to welcome gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. She said the congregation has been immeasurably blessed by the presence of GBLT people in the pews and in all aspects of church life.
Other speakers reminded those present that suicide continues to be a major killer of transgender people--especially trans youth—and that we need to do everything we can as a community to support and affirm our youth. New Haven-based Transgender Youth Advocate, Tony Ferraiolo, said that transgender youth consistently enter his program with depression, anxiety, despair and suicidality. His message to them is simple. He says, “The problem is not that you’re transgender. The problem is that everyone around you says you’re not. Well, we believe you. We care about you. We love you.”
Sponsors for this year’s Hartford-area Transgender Day of remembrance included the Connecticut TransAdvocacy Coalition, the Metropolitan Community Church of Hartford, the Hartford Health Collective, the Charter Oak Cultural Center, the Universalist Church of West Hartford, and the Unitarian Univesalist Society: East in Manchester.