#DrewsViews: Transgender Day of Remembrance

by Drew Adams

Transgender Awareness Week has just passed, and while I love celebrating what’s great about being trans, this post is about something more serious. We’ve come to Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) for 2018. Every November 20, the world observes this sad day to honor those who have died because of transphobia and anti-transgender violence. TDOR also raises awareness of the violence that continues against transgender people, especially trans women of color.

TDOR has been around for almost 20 years, and it’s grown over time. Hundreds of cities in dozens of countries observe it. Many LGBTQ outreach and activist groups will host events like vigils and awareness marches to honor the day. For this post, in honor of TDOR, I want to share some important things that should not be forgotten, today or any day.

First, some stats. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality’s 2015 US Transgender Survey, one out of every four trans people reports having been physically assaulted for being trans. The majority of trans kids (77%) report being treated badly at school, from bullying and name-calling to physical attacks. Around 40% of trans people attempt suicide. Trans women have about a one in 12 chance of being killed by someone, and that goes up to one in eight for trans women of color. When a trans person becomes a victim, 87% of law enforcement agencies were shown in a ProPublica report to have misgendered or dead-named them, adding insult to injury and erasing their reality.

What can be done about these scary numbers? The most important thing is that trans people feel supported and accepted by family, friends and society. When researchers studied trans kids who had socially transitioned, they found that the ones with supportive families had about the same rates of depression and anxiety as their cisgender peers. This means that just being trans doesn’t make someone more depressed or anxious, but how trans people are treated does. A 2016 study published in The Lancet says the same thing: the distress that trans people feel comes from outside sources like discrimination, abuse and lack of acceptance, not from the internal state of being trans.

Transgender is not a mental disorder. It’s not a sickness. Too many people seem to think that it is, or that we are something to be afraid of or angry at. We have to fight back with education and knowledge. The more we are supported and accepted, the more the negative outcomes go down. No one should be killed for being trans — no trans woman is a “trap,” there’s no such defense as “trans panic,” and trans people are not a threat, period. No one should be driven to harm themselves for being trans, either — there is no excuse to bully, assault, misgender or dead-name anyone, ever. Basic respect belongs to everyone.

Back to the remembrance part of TDOR. This is a day to remember those we have lost and keep the fight going so they haven’t died in vain. Here are the names of 22 trans people murdered so far this year in the United States. There could very well be more victims, misgendered or dead-named after their deaths, but these are the ones we know about. Say their names. Think about their lives. Remember them and honor them by doing your part to make sure violence against trans people becomes a thing of the past.

Christa Leigh Steele-Knudslien, 42
Viccky Gutierrez, 33
Tonya Harvey, 35
Celine Walker, 36
Phylicia Mitchell, 45
Zakaria Fry, 28
Amia Tyrae Berryman, 28
Sasha Wall, 29
Karla Patricia Flores-Pavon, 26
Nino Fortson, 36
Antash’a English, 38
Gigi Pierce, 28
Cathalina Christina James, 24
Diamond Stevens, 39
Keisha Wells, 54
Sasha Garden, 27
Dejanay Stanton, 24
Vontashia Bell, 18
Shantee Tucker, 30
London Moore, 20
Nikki Enriquez, 28
Ciara Minaj Carter Frazier, 31

About the Author:

Drew Adams is a transgender high school senior from Ponte Vedra, FL, who is committed to LGBTQ advocacy at the local and national levels. He serves as his high school GSA’s president and raises money for Northeast Florida’s LGBTQ youth outreach, JASMYN, to which he also donates food, toiletries and school supplies. Nationally, Drew serves as a youth ambassador and advocacy volunteer for The Trevor Project, a youth social media ambassador for the Matthew Shepard Foundation, and a Volunteer and Intern Coordinator for Point of Pride. On the legislative side, Drew lobbies for the Equality Act by visiting with his Congressional representatives and their staff.

Additionally, Drew has spent years fighting to change his school district’s bathroom policy to be trans-inclusive, and the fight is still ongoing. Drew is an International Baccalaureate student and a volunteer at the Mayo Clinic, and he hopes to go to medical school and become an adolescent psychiatrist specializing in transgender health. For fun, he practices Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, creates sculpture art and plays the piano.