For the past sixteen years on November 20th, transgender people and allies around the world have come together to mark Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR). It is a day to honor transgender people whose lives tragically ended in the last year as a result of anti-transgender violence and discrimination and celebrate the resilience of those who are living. At memorial services around the country, the names of transgender people who have been killed in the last year are read.
Much like observing a yahrtzeit (the anniversary of a death), it is a time for reflection and introspection. This year was an especially violent year, with at least 22 reported murders in the United States since January, almost double the number of trans murders in all of 2014. This year has also witnessed a significant increase in reported non-lethal anti-trans violence. And the majority of this year’s victims were transgender women of color.
Just this past week, the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus hosted a forum that brought together advocates and community leaders to discuss how to address soaring levels of violence against transgender people. Unsurprisingly, issues of racism, poverty, the systematic marginalization of trans people, including discrimination in schools, jobs and housing were highlighted. Advocates prioritized comprehensive nondiscrimination protections and immigration and criminal justice reform as a way to reduce violence against trans people.
Also earlier this week, the FBI released the 2014 Hate Crime Statistics Act (HCSA) report. While the report documented a decrease in the number of reported hate crimes in the United States, crimes targeting victims on the basis of their gender identity tripled. Tripled. And the violence against transgender people is not limited to the United States. Trans Murder Monitoring (TMM) project, a program of Transgender Europe, systematically monitors, collects and analyzes reports of homicides of trans people worldwide. This year TMM identified 271 trans persons to be added to the list to be remembered.
It is important to take this day to mourn and to honor the lives of those tragically cut short by hatred and violence. And it is also a day to re-commit to naming the problems working on solutions.
A comprehensive federal anti-discrimination law that explicitly includes gender identity is essential. We must ensure that transgender people are explicitly protected from discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodations, education, federal funding, credit, and jury service. These legal protections will go far in reducing the number of transgender people put in vulnerable positions as a result of discrimination.
State hate crime laws must cover hate crimes committed on the basis of gender identity and expression. An inclusive federal hate crime law is not enough. We must redouble our efforts to fulfill the goals of ADL’s 50 States Against Hate campaign, particularly enhanced training for law enforcement officers on how to identify and respond to hate crimes committed against trans people, better data collection and reporting by law enforcement agencies, and increased public education.
And we must educate young people and educators about transgender lives. Our schools must be places where transgender and gender non-conforming youth are able to thrive in an environment that is safe and free from bullying and harassment.
So today, we remember and mourn. Tomorrow we continue to fight fiercely for securing justice and fair treatment to all.