Twenty-one years ago, Rita Hester, a black transwoman, was killed in an act of hate in her Boston apartment. As the one-year anniversary of her death approached, activist Gwendolyn Ann Smith organized a vigil in San Francisco’s Castro District on Nov. 20, 1999, to honor Rita’s life and others who had been killed in acts of anti-trans violence.
Today, on the 20th Annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, we honor the 22 transgender lives which have been lost to hate in 2019 alone. Like Rita Hester, many of the people who were killed this year, were also transgender womxn of color. Transgender Day of Remembrance arrives at the end of National Transgender Awareness Week, a week created to heighten these critical issues and the experiences of transgender and gender-diverse people. While visibility of transgender people has certainly increased over the past few years in our arts, media, politics, - and the LGBTQ community itself - this epidemic of violence against trans people and the silencing of these experiences remain.
We at GSBA understand that these deeply intersectional issues do not exist in a vacuum. We understand that many of our institutions today house systems which exclude trans people and silence trans experiences, allow for prejudice and discrimination, and have inadequate policies when it comes to holding bias or hate accountable. This systematic oppression works as a pillar from which transphobic and racist rhetoric and violence stem. We can all do more, and we must do more now.
You can play a role in disarming anti-trans hate and establishing equality for transgender and gender diverse people in both your professional and personal lives. First, having a basic understanding of gender and transgender identity, as well as how gender intersects with race, is a great starting point to becoming an ally. Next, our community partners Gender Diversity and Ingersoll Gender Center also offer comprehensive trainings for individuals and businesses, which we strongly encourage all GSBA Members to utilize. These trainings can help you understand what barriers transgender and gender diverse professionals might experience at work and how you can take steps to eliminate them. You can also use our Transparent Inclusion at Work checklist to help guide you along this process. Wherever you are in this process, remember that GSBA is here to help you become the best ally you can be.
Finally, the Puget Sound is home to several organizations which empower and support our transgender and gender diverse community members, such as Ingersoll Gender Center, Gender Diversity, TRANSform Washington, UTOPIA Seattle, Gay City, Trans Women of Color Solidarity Network, Gender Justice League, and the GSBA Scholarship Fund (46% of GSBA Scholars identify as trans community members). On this Transgender Day of Remembrance, we hope you’ll honor those impacted by anti-trans violence and rhetoric by considering investing in the work of these incredible organizations.
In remembrance and solidarity,
Artwork by Ethan Parker, Forward Together