Vigil held to remember trans-violence

Last night a group of about 20 students, faculty and community members gathered in the Gish Film Theater to remember the 15 people who were killed this year due to transphobic violence. Pictures and names of those killed were lined along the front of the stage where people and visitors were encouraged to read their stories.

The event, sponsored by Transcendence, served as the beginning of Transgender Awareness Days, a week long series of events dedicated to raise awareness for transgender issues.

Amanda Monyak, secretary for Transcendence, said that the event was meant to honor the victims of violence and to try to stop future hate crimes.

Transgender Day of Remembrance was developed in 1999 in remembrance of Rita Hester who was murdered on November 28, 1998. The evening began with a memorial video for Hester followed by testimonials from guest speakers.

Violence still remains a threat for transgender people, said president Joseph Aufenthie. The risk that the average person has of being murdered is 1 in 18,000, while the risk for transgender people to be murdered is 1 in 12.

“I am devastated by the brutality of the murders that all trans-people face,” Monyak said. “Innocent people were taken because someone refused to see that gender was fluid.”

Monyak spoke about the recent decision to withdraw transgender issues from the Equal Non-Discrimnation Act (ENDA) which was passed by the House of Representatives on November 7th and guarantees employment non-discrimination for gay, lesbian and bisexual employees.

“I feel this is a very sad example of how trans discrimination is enacted,” Monyak said.

The event was designed as a memorial but also to express anger against violence, lecturer Julie Haught said.

“We are here tonight to make sure that these lives are not forgotten or erased or airbrushed out of history,” Haught said. “We reject the dehumanization that is at the root of all hate crimes and gather not only to express our sadness and grief, but also to address our anger and rage.”

Marlene Bomer, community liaison for Transcendence, encouraged all in attendance to become involved in activism and support.

“Everybody needs to get involved,” Bomer said. “It takes our allies as well so please be an ally.”

Both Joelle Ryan, who established Transcendence and organized the first Day of Remembrance in 2003, and Aufenthine expressed sadness that there remains a need for the Day of Remembrance to be held.

“Every year I wish this event would end, but it cannot because people are still being killed by trans-violence,” Ryan said.

The evening ended with a candlelight vigil for the 374 reported deaths, and those that went unreported, that were a result of violence in the past three decades. Aufenthine expressed anger at the number of people who were remembered this year.

“These are all people who had potential, who could have made a difference, who could have had a life and now its just gone,” Aufenthine said. “And why? Because they were different?”