About one hundred people gathered on the steps of the state capitol this past Saturday to honor those lost to anti-trans violence. The Transgender Day of Remembrance is a national event that has occurred every November since 1999.
The yearly observance began as a vigil for Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was killed in Massachusetts in 1998 and whose murder remains unsolved more than two decades later.
Sunshine Raynebow, a local artist and poet, was one of several trans activists who spoke at Saturday’s event.
“I’m sick and tired of having to wake up everyday and fight for my life,” Raynebow told the crowd. “I just want to walk out of my house and feel safe in this world. But until then, I’m going to keep fighting for justice for every single Black person and every single person of color until this world benefits every single one of us.”
According to the Human Rights Campaign, 2021 has been the deadliest year on record for the trans community since the organization began tracking anti-trans violence in 2013. At least 47 transgender or gender non-conforming people have been killed so far this year. At least 39 were people of color — primarily Black trans women.
But that data may be incomplete or an inaccurate picture of anti-trans violence. Per the Human Rights Campaign’s report, cases of deadly crimes against transgender folks are often either misreported or unreported.
Elle Halo, an activist out of Milwaukee, says that it’s important to also use the day to highlight the achievements of the trans community.
“One of the issues surrounding us taking this moment to mourn and heal is that sometimes the only things you hear about us as a
community are tragic, when we are so much more than those parts of our stories,” Halo said.
Amira Pierotti organized Saturday’s event, and used the opportunity to call for action from state and federal lawmakers to expand legal protections for members of the LGBT community.
In February, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Equality Act, which would ban discrimination based on gender identity or sex. The Senate has not yet taken up the legislation.
“We need our lawmakers to support and champion transgender and gender-expansive justice now,” Pierotti said.
All photos by Jonah Chester