The importance of Transgender Day of Remembrance

Photo courtesy of Riddhi Jani

November 20 marks the 22nd annual Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR), a day observed to memoralize those who were victimized or murdered as a result of transphobia. This day started in 1999 as an outpouring of grief, mourning, and anger for the murder of an African American transgender woman named Rita Hester. They were killed in Allison, Massachusetts just two days before her 35th birthday. 

Annually led by SexGen York, last year York celebrated TDoR virtually, which featured speakers from various organizations and institutions.

The year 2021 has marked a difficult time for the transgender community. The Washington Post called this year the deadliest year on record with “at least 45 non-binary or transgender people having been fatally shot or killed in the U.S.” However, Human Rights Campaign officials believe that this is an undercount as many crimes against transgender people are either misreported or not reported at all.

The 2SLGBTQIA+ community continues to be resilient, however, as Statistic Canada notes that Canada is home to approximately one million people who identify as LGBTQ2+, accounting for four per cent of the total population aged 15 and older in 2018. According to the 2018 Survey on Safety in Public and Private Spaces, approximately 75,000 Canadians were trans or non-binary, representing 0.24 per cent of the Canadian population aged 15 and older. With the 2021 Canadian Census accounting for non-binary people for the first time, these statistics will likely continue to increase.

“Conversations regarding queer (2SLGBTQIA+) issues are extremely important for educating non-queer people on our issues, but also offering a space for queer voices to vent about their own oppression,” writes third-year film production student Shaun Soutar. They, along with fellow classmate Angie Lawrence, were asked “how important are conversations regarding LGBTQ issues?”

Lawrence says, “For queer and trans people at York and elsewhere, being and feeling seen beyond tolerance is a building block for queer resilience. That starts with small actions. Something I’ve been implementing into my daily life is asking for and offering my pronouns and avoiding the use of gendered pronouns if I’m not sure.

“Speaking from experience,” Lawrence continues, “living in a trans body comes with pain. But it also comes with immense joy and power! All of which need to be expressed. That’s what’s so important about opening conversations about queer issues around York. I want all of my trans and queer classamtes to be able to share their thread of queer tapestry freely, and for allies to have the tools to listen in full. 

“TDoR is a stark reminder that although we in the York community may pride ourselves on the equitable treatment of marginalized voices, that the protection of trans lives is still an ultimate necessity. It is not only a day to mourn and acknowledge and educate, but also to love and the value the trans and enby (non-binary) folks in your life.”

Soutar feels that “centring the trans experience is something that has been missing from a lot of 2SLGBTQIA+ movements in the past, so things like TDoR acknowledges the historical and contemporary presence and importance of trans and genderqueer people in the queer rights movement.”

For those who wish to access resources or learn more about York’s involvement with Transgender and other 2SLGBTQIA+ subjects can visit SexGen York or other organizations including TBLGAY.

About the Author

By Nick Mokrzewski

Former Editor

Nick is in his third year of Film Production at York University. Raised in an artistic family, he’s never had much problem expressing himself whether it be through music, writing, or comedic rants. He’s a big sucker for watching and critiquing films, going to concerts, professional wrestling, and consuming coffee or chocolate. Nick intends to have many artistic pursuits in either writing, filmmaking, or anything that involves music — whatever suits his fancy on the given day. He’ll often tell you “life is short, seize the moment ‘cause tomorrow you might be dead!”


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