Transgender Day of Rememberance

Transgender Students Members of GLSEN National Student Council


Content Warning: This resource will mention violence, murder, racism, classism, and death.

Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR), is the hardest day of the year for me because it is a day where I gather with my community to honor the lives of transgender people whose lives were taken too soon. I might not have known the individuals who were murdered or took their lives, but I know that these deaths were not their fault, they deserved to live. This topic is hard to discuss, it is hard to fathom the inhumane treatment and know that there are so many others whose deaths were not reported because of misgendering by family and media. As hard as these conversations are, I believe we need to have them, provide time and attention to those needing to process, and we need to figure out the best way to advocate for safety, opportunity, healing, and joy in our environments.

TDOR was founded in 1999 by Gwendolyn Smith in honor of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was murdered in Massachusetts. Trans leaders such as Monica Roberts have been integral in tracking the homicides that are reported. Forward Together has created a program called Trans Day of Resilience which showcases art that honors transgender peoples identities and lives. Art can be both healing and action oriented, check out their free downloads of art by trans people. This day is now recognized in schools, universities, LGBTQ Centers, faith-based institutions, libraries, communal spaces, online, and around the world. People gather to honor the transgender people whose lives were taken during the year. The event involves reading the victims’ names and ages out loud. It is noteworthy that a high number of people whose deaths are reported are Black trans women. This highlights the intersection of racism, sexism, transphobia, and classism.

Working with LGBTQ youth whether in GSAs or drop-in centers, I have never shut down conversations around these acts of violence and learning about stystems of oppression that impact LGBTQ people of color. They should know, they deserve a space to process, and they deserve to be with their community and with allies to talk about it. I recently asked some of the transgender students from GLSEN’s National Student Council what would be helpful for them in having these conversations and why it is important to not be afraid to engage in them and a question for cisgender students in solidarity with trans students on their experience centering the voices of their trans peers.  For educators and adults working with youth, I hope this helps as a guide on how to facilitate these conversations. For students in solidarity with the LGBTQ community, I hope this helps you understand why these days are important, why these conversations are necessary, and how you can take action and show support.

What does it feel like when you learn about the death of a trans person?

El: Following the death of a trans person I’ve become accustomed to a sense of numbness. It’s devastating; and I think I’ve developed this reaction to try and save myself the heartbreak. I can’t afford to be in a constant state of grief and sometimes that’s how it feels.

Oliver: I feel tired. I know that I will be heartbroken and scared now, and then again, and again, as more and more trans people are murdered. After a while, it’s easy to just get so exhausted.


What can your teachers do when they find out?

El: They can start by finding out. My teachers don’t know about the epidemic until I talk about it.

Oliver: Talk about specific deaths and the epidemic in a respectful manner, but make sure not to put trans students on the spot if that’s not something that they want.

Darid: DON’T tokenize trans folks to be the voice of representation for the trans community. Provide a safe outlet where we can discuss the stuff that is happening, but don’t put the emotional labor on trans folks to educate everyone else. 


What can your peers do to support you?

El: Acknowledge that it happened. I’m tired of social media being the only medium where I see these stories being shared. It’s time we see self-proclaimed allies sharing our pain.

Oliver: check in with me, and make sure to be respectful and not misgender anyone while doing so.

Darid: I second what Oliver said. Checking in is very helpful for me. Being able to reflect and have someone to talk to and listen to is very therapeutic. 


When having a discussion about this topic, what are helpful questions to ask?

El: What are we doing in our own communities to protect trans people? Do our protective measures involve the police? Are we being disruptive enough in our everyday lives?

Oliver: How can we keep trans people safe? What are some of the intersections of identity that make a trans person more likely to be murdered? (black and brown trans people, trans women and femmes, sex workers)

Darid: How does my intersectional identity create privileges? What privileges do I have? What does allyship look like for trans folks? 


Why is it important to have these conversations?

El: For me, it’s a matter of acknowledgment. We have to talk about the death and suffering of trans people to develop a comprehensive and widespread understanding of why it’s happening, who is causing it, and what resources need to be compiled to prevent it.

Oliver: It doesn’t go away if we ignore it- the more we address these issues, the more we can start to dismantle all of the intersecting issues and understand how race and class and queer issues are inextricably linked.

Darid: I second what both El and Oliver said. By fostering conversation, we can reduce and eliminate the kinds of barriers trans people face in accessing resources for services and care. It helps in countering the biases, stereotypes, and misinformations that continues to fuel our society with harmful narratives. We NEED to challenge these types of thinking through conversations and dialogue.


For non-trans people: How have trans people asked you to help advocate? What did you do?

Jess: Trans people have asked me to share my pronouns (especially in majority cis spaces) and educate myself on the work of trans activists. I use GLSEN’s pronoun pin to put on my school lanyard and take it to extracurricular events. If I have a trans person in need of resources or support in my local community, I either provide them with support or ask my GLSEN colleagues for relevant resources. 

Chris S.: Many of my friends have asked me to help normalize the use of introducing yourself with your name and pronouns. I believe its very imporant for cis allies to be normalizing the use of pronouns so trans people can feel more comfortable sharing their identities, especially in cis dominated spaces. I also make sure I advocate for my friends when they're being misgendered by politely reminding them of what their preferred name and pronouns are. I belive it’s my job as a cis ally to ensure that my trans friends identities are being respected in whatever spaces they’re in.  

For more resources on how to take action on transgender awareness days like Transgender Day of Remembrance, check out GLSEN’s Trans Action Kit.