268 Names

I was chatting with some of my colleagues at dinner before writing this post, mentioning that I was doing a piece for Thursday since it’s a special day. Not knowing, they asked, “Oh? What’s important on Thursday?”

Today is the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR), a day of reflection and memory for the trans people who have been murdered over the course of this past year, and for the thousands that were killed in years prior. For those of us in the United States, today is for Betty Skinner and Brittany Stergis. It’s for Kandy Hall, Zoraida Reyes and Yaz’min Shances. For Tiffany Edwards, for Mia Henderson, for Alejandra Leos, Aniya Parker, and Kitty Collins. For Tajshon Sherman and Gizzy Fowler. It’s for those whose names have not been released, for the 268 trans people who were reported murdered world-wide, and for those whose deaths continue to go unnoticed.

Each year I read through the list of names of trans people, and each year it’s mostly filled with women of color. Since the Trans Murder Monitoring Project began in 2008, each year except 2013 has seen a larger number, with this year’s being the highest yet. Every year TDOR fills me with sorrow and with rage, especially in years like this one when I recognize some of the names on the list.

I still don’t know quite how to talk about this with my colleagues, but I’m starting to anyway. To make visible the fact that 41% of trans people have attempted suicide, and the thought that the average life expectancy of a trans woman is less than 35 years1. For those of us hoping to invite more people into academia, to bring light to the fact that 89% of trans middle and high school students are harassed in school, and a third experienced anti-LGBT language coming from staff and teachers causing half of trans students to skip at least one day of school every month because they don’t feel safe. That
69% of those of us who do make it to college continue to be isolated as 1 in 3 continue to be harassed
, while only 16% of universities have any policies protecting trans students and employees.

Each year on this day I try to find more ways to improve my local climate to be more welcoming towards trans people. There are many resources available for improving the world around you, and many organizations and voices working on making the world safer for the least privileged. On this Transgender Day of Remembrance, and for each one until the newest list contains zero names, I suggest that you do the same.

1 This number should be taken with a grain of salt, as I have not been able to verify it. However, spending as much time in trans communities as I have, I almost get excited when I hear of a trans person dying of old age as the vast majority of trans people I’ve known who have died have either been killed or committed suicide.

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