This Nov. 20th marks the 16th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance.
UVic Chemistry alumnus Marshall Kilduff says it’s, “A day to remember and reflect on those who’ve been taken in the last year due to violence surrounding their chosen gender presentation, a day to come together and recognize everybody and memorialize those who’ve been lost.”
The day first came to be as a community response to the 1998 murder of Rita Hester, a transgender woman of colour, in Allston, MA. It is an international movement, often observed by silent vigils and the reading of names of people who have died wherein transgender discrimination is known to be a factor. The loss of life has resulted from reasons such as people being refused medical treatment, and from violent crime and suicide.
“They try to collect names of people who’ve been affected around the world,” says Kilduff, “but unfortunately, it doesn’t get reported very well in a lot of countries, even Canada and the States. A lot of people, either they aren’t out or their families sort of sweep it under the carpet, so even if that is sort of the reason why they were a subject of violence, it might not actually be made available that that’s what happened.”
Kilduff and Samuel Salvati are part of an independent, freelance collective of advocates, activists and passionate people who are invested in the event on all different levels. Salvati notes that people want to also acknowledge the level of invisibility associated with transgender tragedies.
“Because of the oppressive marginalization that happens in these gendered, other spaces, it’s really inaccurate numbers and really inaccurate reflections when we’re presenting these lists, because these are the folks that are known to have a trans or gender-queer identity, in some public or personal forum with their friends and family—but the likelihood of people being overlooked within that process, because of the covert existence of trans people, is statistically higher,” says Salvati. “So the acknowledgement is for those that we know of, and those that we don’t know of. With that subversive nature of trans identities, living outside of the norm, people just don’t know, because a lot of folks never disclose. So suicide occurs or violence occurs or something happens with that person and there’s a loss of life and, as Marshall mentioned, it’s not always recorded as such within various jurisdictions around the world.”
In Victoria this year, people are invited to participate in remembrance in a number of different ways. Aaron Devor, founder and academic director of the largest transgender archive in the world, right here at UVic’s McPherson Library, is involved with putting on a screening at Cinecenta. Director Doran Eran’s film Melting Away screens Nov. 20, at 7 p.m. Filmmaker Maureen Bradley, who is also an associate professor in the UVic Writing Department, will give a pre-screening lecture on representations of transgender people in cinema. There may also be a candlelight vigil associated with this event on campus.
Kilduff, Salvati and others have organized an opportunity for people to speak up at an open mic memorial event. It’s taking place in an open and wheelchair-accessible space in the AIDS Vancouver Island offices at 713 Johnson St., between about 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. this Saturday, Nov. 16, opening with an acknowledgement of territories. The event will feature free food and warm beverages (including vegan and gluten-free options), and a display table with a memorial album. There will also be counsellors on-site to talk with. The group aims to create a very open, inclusive and friendly space, so that anyone who feels they want to stop by for any reason at all will be welcome.
“If people want to speak, then they can speak. If people don’t want to speak then we’re just going to collectively be together in solidarity in that silence and reflect on the past year and what the implications are for our community,” says Salvati.
“The event is to honour those that we’ve lost within the last year,” says Kilduff. “If we ever came to a point where there was no list of people to acknowledge, then maybe we would have to look at the need for such an event.” However, this year the list of names remains.