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Transgender Day of Remembrance

Whether you know it or not you have met a transgender or non-binary person in your life. We live in small towns and big cities all over the world and are present in every culture. Our identities are not new, they were simply erased through Western colonialism.

Transgender Day of Remembrance

Every year on November 20th Transgender Day of Remembrance is observed to memorialise the transgender and non-binary individuals who have been murdered in the past year. It was founded in 1999 to memorialise the murder of Rita Hester and has since grown from a small, web-based project into a movement recognised in 20 countries across the globe.

Events in 185 different cities often include readings of the names of trans people whose lives were lost over the past year. It is also a time to remember the revolutionaries who have shaped the LGBTQIA+ movement, such a Sylvia Riviera and Marsha P. Johnson, both of whom were trans women of colour that were instrumental at the Stonewall Riots which birthed the Pride movement.

This year amongst the list of at least 368 recorded names globally, we honor the memory of Zena Campbell, a Wellington trans woman strangled to death. While there were no widely reported murders of transgender people in Australia this year, it is unclear whether any truly occurred or not. Statistics on violent crime against the trans community are not tracked or available at this time and this means the true death toll is likely much higher.

We Are Everywhere

Whether you know it or not you have met a transgender or non-binary person in your life. We live in small towns and big cities all over the world and are present in every culture. Our identities are not new, they were simply erased through Western colonialism.

We are transgender, fa’fafine, hijra, akava’ine, fakaleiti, travesti, non-binary, two spirit, neutrois, khanith, demi gender, kathoey and more. Some of us live openly, loudly and proudly proclaiming our identities. Others live quietly, carrying out peaceful lives, our identities unknown by most of the cisgender people around us.

Some of us choose to try to “pass” as cisgender while others do not. Similarly, some of us desire medical intervention, such as hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and gender affirming surgeries while others do not. Our choice as both binary and non-binary trans people to medically transition or pass a cisgender does not define or validate our “trans-ness.”

Our Identities Impact Our Lives

Because of the prejudice and oppression trans people experience our lives are often fraught with disruption and discrimination. This affects our access to employment, housing, medical care, and that in turn leads to a shortened life expectancy for trans people. This is only compounded for trans people who are people of colour, visibly disabled, or otherwise marginalised.

This takes a toll on our mental health with approximately 40% of transgender people in New Zealand reporting significant depressive symptoms and roughly 50% stating that they had self-harmed in the past 12 months. We are at higher risk of suicide, too, with nearly 1/5th attempting to end their life in the past year. Match that with about 40% of transgender people reporting an inability to access health care when needed and trans people are left with few places to turn when we need help.


How Can You Help?

Things are changing for the better and transgender people need good allies now more than ever. Here are a few ways you can help:

  • Speak out against disrespectful, harmful, or violent remarks about transgender people. Make it known that you will not tolerate such behavior.

  • Respect the pronouns of others. Even better, begin to offer yours when meeting new people and change your email signature to include your pronouns. This will create a safer atmosphere for any transgender or gender questioning people to speak up about their own pronouns.

  • Listen to and uplift the voices of transgender people. Follow a few trans public figures or bloggers on social media, share their content, and take what they say to heart.

  • Don’t assume you can tell if anyone is or is not transgender. Some trans people choose not to medically transition and others “pass” as cisgender. There is no one way to look as a transgender person.

  • Use gender neutral language. Saying “Hey friends!” or “Welcome honoured guests” is inclusive to all and just as friendly as “Hey guys” or “Welcome Ladies and Gentlemen.” Suggest minor edits to the language of others, as well.

  • Get comfortable with making mistakes. We are all human and none of us are perfect! If you slip up on someone’s pronouns or make an assumption about someone’s identity it isn’t the end of the world. Simply apologise and allow both of you to move on.

  • And of course keep it appropriate. If you wouldn’t ask a cis person about their medical history, sexual activity, genitals, or questions about a sensitive time in their lives don’t do so to a trans person. It is okay to be curious about trans experiences, but recognise that there are myriads of ways to learn about hormones, surgeries, and more from transgender content creators online and in books, rather than interrogating your transgender family members, coworkers, or friends.

If you are not okay with the disproportionate challenges trans and non-binary people face, it’s time to use your voice and actions to work towards becoming an ally.

You can also support charities and organisations working on securing trans rights and creating a safer society for all.






Artist: Art Twink

Art twink
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