Today is International Transgender Day of Remembrance. This annual event exists to memorialise those people who have died as a result of transphobic hatred or prejudice. Officially, it exists to recognise victims of murder, but it’s worth remembering that a disproportionate number of trans people are also driven to suicide every year.
We hold Transgender Day of Remembrance to mourn those who would otherwise be forgotten. Transphobic murder is not only likely to be particularly brutal, but its victims often fail to find respect even in death. Media sources, coroners and lawyers (in those cases where the public even becomes aware that a death has taken place) consistently refer to victims by the wrong name, incorrect pronouns, or with dehumanising language. Even in death, their very existence is erased.
Trans people are right to fear harassment, discrimination and violence. In the United Kingdom, the Engendered Penalties study states that 73% of trans people report experiencing such abuse in public spaces, and further argues that this figure underestimates the real extent of the problem. This near-universal abuse is likely to be even worse for those who experience intersecting oppressions, such as trans people from ethnic minorities, those from working class backgrounds, and sex workers.
“Remembering” those we have never met, whose experiences we can never fully comprehend, is a strange and difficult task. Last year, a post on Questioning Transphobia explored this issue. I feel the conclusion of this article is pertinent for all those trans people and cis allies who wish to commemorate Transgender Day of Remembrance. For the sake of those who have died, “the task of witnessing may well be impossible, but we should attempt it nevertheless.”