Each year, the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) is observed around November 20. The event, which has continued annually since a 1999 candlelight vigil for Rita Hester, is set aside to remember those lost to anti-transgender violence in the last year.
Much of this violence is fueled by a sentiment that it is tacitly and explicitly reinforced by narrow understandings of gender, as well as outright transphobia and homophobia expressed in the name of a Christian God. Too many of us have not only heard "God condemns you"—but also "It would be better if you were dead."
It is a profound and important step for every faith community to join in a resounding chorus that condemns all forms of violence against people who are differently gendered. The unique character of TDOR creates an important opportunity for people of faith and spirit to connect with transgender communities in meaningful ways.
This year, Transfaith has developed a toolkit to help event organizers, and especially people of faith, plan respectful and relevant TDOR observances. Visit Transfaith to access the entire toolkit, and check out the list below for the basics about what this observance is all about.
1. TDOR is commemorated each year on November 20.
Observances may take place on the days or weekend before and/or after November 20, depending on the day of the week on which November 20 occurs.
2. TDOR is the single most significant observance on the calendar for transgender communities.
TDOR is generally much more significant by far for transgender communities than other LGBT observances, such as Pride Month or Coming Out Day.
3. TDOR is more like a memorial or funeral than any other kind of observance.
The tone of TDOR observances reflect the impact that murder has on the tapestry of the transgender community and the very real lives represented by the names of those who have been lost. The first response when loved ones are lost is grief, and TDOR creates a space to acknowledge that grief publicly, in a way that is similar to a funeral, memorial service, or wake.
4. TDOR is an act of resistance and a way to restore dignity.
Too often, the murders of transgender people (especially of transgender women of color and those perceived as such) have included extreme violence, such as disfiguring and/or dismembering the victim. The rage apparent in such murders often embodies a hateful, terroristic impact that reverberates beyond the particular victim to humiliate and degrade the entire community. This is the definition of a "hate crime."
TDOR services are a place to acknowledge both the individual and collective impact of such extreme and humiliating violence—as well as to build resistance and restore dignity.
5. TDOR is a protest or vigil for justice.
When transgender people are murdered, public outcry is often lacking. The cases all too often go unsolved. Even when the perpetrator is known, the criminal justice system may mark our lives as disposable by blaming the victim (e.g. allowing the "trans-panic defense").
TDOR services are opportunities to respond collectively to the neglect and uncaring attitudes of both the culture at large as well as authorities such as police and judicial systems. TDOR services offer a place for outrage. They demand accountability from authorities who have too often failed to protect our communities.
6. TDOR provides a way to become aware of who is most vulnerable in our communities.
In more than a decade of compiling names for TDOR, the annual lists of those who have been mudered have overwhelmingly shown that transgender women of color bear the particular brunt of anti-transgender violence. TDOR is an opportunity to repent of our own racism and sexism and think again about how we might break out of singular ways of thinking.
7. TDOR is an opportunity to rise up out of our isolation for support.
Those among us who have lost loved ones or survived assault themselves are especially traumatized by these events. Those of us who have not been directly impacted by these murders still often live in fear, suffer secondary trauma, and are in need of support as we process the too familiar narrative of lives lost.
TDOR is an opportunity to come together and support one another as we face the challenges of ignorance, bigotry, and hatred aimed at people of transgender experience. It is important to recognize that the content of TDOR services may be triggering, so sensitive emotional support should be a part of what is offered to those present.
8. TDOR is an opportunity to recommit our lives to live with defiance, determination, and hope.
To say that TDOR may be inspiring is to first acknowledge the deep impact that violence has had on us and our communities. Despite the trauma and fear that may haunt us, TDOR is a chance to reconnect with a warrior spirit that draws on courage from the ancestors to carry on for the children.
9. TDOR is not a fundraiser or an outreach opportunity.
As the most significant transgender observance of the year, it may be tempting to infuse all of one's hopes and dreams for connecting with the transgender community into this one day. Yet, TDOR is laced with a potent mix of grief and anger, fear and determination that ought not be conflated with other goals, no matter how noble or relevant. The vulnerability of TDOR should be acknowledged with sensitive support, not exploited for other ends.
10. TDOR is an opportunity to connect with others who we might not otherwise get to know.
For those of us who live in relative security and privilege, it is an opportunity to reach out to those who are most impacted by transphobia (and racism, sexism, etc), nurturing authentic relationship, solidarity, and understanding. The connections made in or around TDOR services are beginnings that invite us to reinforce our connections throughout the rest of the year.
Visit the Transfaith website to access the entire toolkit, and let us know how your faith community plans to observe the Transgender Day of Remembrance this year.