Remembering Fallen Friends
A memorial to victims of transgender hate
One by one, candles were extinguished as names of transgender victims were read out loud at Temple Beth-El in Providence last Thursday. The previous day was Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day recognized all over the country to remember people who have lost their lives from anti-transgender acts of violence. The event was put together by Youth Pride, Inc and TGI Network of Rhode Island, both are agencies who provide support and advocacy for those who face challenges when expressing their gender identity.
The event began with the reading of victims’ names, ages, causes of death, and towns they were in at the time of their death. The group of readers took turns going through the names by months of the year, bringing everyone through the tragic deaths all the way from January to just weeks earlier, ending on Nov. 8. Victims were from all over the world; some from Malaysia and Mexico, others much closer to home in Florida and Ohio. Glow sticks were passed out afterwards while a woman sang about all people coming together with the same dream, the same light and the same fight for equality.
One guest speaker was Michelle Rinni, the mother of a young transgender girl. She recounted the experience of her son Sebastian, transitioning and going into the sixth grade as a girl. She recalled the apprehension she had, but praised the Pawtucket school system for helping her educate the staff and change the name on school records to Hannah. After she was done speaking, Hannah approached the stand, just tall enough to peer over at the attendees, and told everyone that she was happy to be at the memorial to encourage anyone who was transgender like her.
After the memorial, Congressman David Cicilini, who was in attendance, briefly spoke about the amount of people who were “killed because of who they are.” He stated that the memorial service was a “reminder that we have an enormous amount of work to do.” Congressman Cicilini continued on with the hopeful recognition that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act has been passed in Congress, proof that we are working towards protecting the transgender community from discrimination based on gender identity.
Refreshments were served after the speakers presented and information tables had been set up to educate the public on transgender rights, healthy sex practices and advocacy groups. People connected with each other and the spokespeople, learning more about programs like Sojourner House and the Center for Safe. I even got to witness a woman approach Hannah and encourage her as a fellow trans-woman, both having similar, yet different experiences to share with the other.
The night seemed quite a success in serving as a memorial for transgender victims of violence. Not only were victims recognized, but their messages were taken as a push to get people to stand up and do something to promote safety and equality for the transgender community.