Transgender Day of Remembrance


Anne Wyszewianski and Eva Hattie L. Schueler

Reading about deaths, especially murders, can become repetitive. After a while, the words and phrases blend together: ‘body discovered,’ ‘police believe,’ ‘remains unsolved.’

Transgender Day of Remembrance is a day, held on every November 20th since 1999, devoted to remembering deaths, specifically those of gender-non-conforming people. But it can feel like a hopeless and awful lesson in anti-transgender violence. And it is a disturbing view into the modern hate crime: killing “men dressed as women” at an incredible rate. The murder rate of transgender people in the United States is 17 times the national average, making them the most targeted minority group in the U.S.

The Trans Day of Remembrance ceremony is held by the University of Michigan’s Spectrum Center, and, like many TDOR ceremonies nationwide, showed a slideshow of this year’s victims with their names in bold white font and their faces often a blank filler-picture. The photos of faces that were included were haunting, especially the infant face of Roy Antonio Jones II, only 17 months old when his father beat him to death for acting ‘like a girl.’ The offense of a man acting like a woman is one that is punished, and in the cases of those remembered, punished by death. These were not quiet crimes; there’s nothing quiet about being stabbed 17 times in Istanbul, drowned in Turkey, strangled in New York, shot to death in North Carolina, beheaded in Mexico, tortured and burned in Pakistan, dismembered and mutilated in Indonesia, beaten in the head in California. All of these crimes in the past year.


The ceremony was equally upsetting and empowering; after the slideshow and speeches, there was gradually a transition into upbeat music and laughing. But the slideshow kept repeating on the back wall, as the consistent reminder of pain and injustice. Even as people laughed, their smiles were echoed in the photos of the dead. “Trans Day of Remembrance celebrates community, but also mourns all those who have been murdered in the past year,” said Will Sherry, a staff member at the U of M and a member of Spectrum. “It’s important to remember those who have been killed, to have time for the community to come together. It’s important for people to have a place to reflect on their memories.”