Associated Students, Inc. and Transgender Empowerment and Advocacy at Long Beach State commemorated Transgender Day of Remembrance virtually on Nov. 18.
While Transgender Day of Remembrance is on Nov. 20, Caleb Aparicio, ASI Comissioner of LGBTIQ+ Affairs and a fifth-year psychology major and queer studies minor, explained that the event was hosted early out of respect for students’ time and possible Thanksgiving commitments.
The virtual event invited Miliana Singh, LGBTQ Center Orange County Health Care and Transgender Services Coordinator to speak to attendees about the violence that the transgender community faces, as well as imploring people to go beyond allyship and become “accomplices.”
“Stand next to us, stand in front of us, be that front line and let folks know that in order to get to this trans person you have to go through me,” Singh said. “And I, as an ally, I am going to be here to protect and defend this person and we’re in this together.”
Jasper Chagolla, a fifth-year women’s, gender and secuality studies major and American Sign Language and deaf cultures minor explained to attendees how Transgender Day of Remembrance came about.
In 1998, Rita Hester was attacked in her apartment in Boston, Massachusetts and died from her injuries. Hester was openly a member of the transgender community, and her death sparked the first Transgender Day of Remembrance when writer and activist Gwendolyn Ann Smith organized a vigil to remember Hester and the deaths of other transgender folks.
Singh said that over 20 years after Transgender Day of Remembrace, violence against the community continues.
“We’re still losing folks to senseless murder,” Singh said. “But my hope and goal is that we can move to a brighter future where there’s protection for us and where we feel safe, and these numbers can decrease.”
According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, there have been at least 28 murders or suspicious deaths of transgender people in 2020, the numbers up by two from last year. The NCTE also reported that violence against Black and Latinx transgender women are particularly high.
During the virtual memorial, Singh explained how many of the lives lost were Black transgender people, but noted how they were not given attention in the same way that their cisgender Black peers were during the Black Lives Matter movements. That, she said, was another reason why it was important to hold space for the transgender community.
Singh also took the time to honor activists Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson who fought for the transgender community and against discrimination based on sexual orientation. They paved the way for future generations to come, Singh said, and helped transgender people see that they could lead fulfilling lives too.
“We owe so much to them and to a lot of the trans folks who were able to be that backbone and who are still the backbone…and going out and letting it be known that this community exists and that we cannot be erased, no matter what our administration tries to do, no matter what homophobic, transphobic folks try to do,” Singh said. “We always prevail.”