Day of remembrance honors victims of anti-transgender violence

Sam Boeser

University students are honoring transgender victims of violence this week as part of a nationally recognized Transgender Day of Remembrance, which is in its second year at the University.

The week is designed to increase awareness and remember those who have died as a result of antitransgender violence.

The event began nationally in 1999 after the murder of self-identified transgender Rita Hester on Nov. 20, 1998. Since then, the Transgender Day of Remembrance has taken place each November, making this the sixth year the event has been held nationwide.

Begun in San Francisco as a candlelight vigil, the Transgender Day of Remembrance has evolved into a nationwide event.

The Minnesota Center Against Violence and Abuse sponsors the event at the University to increase public awareness about hate crimes against transgender people. The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Programs Office and the Queer Student Cultural Center are also helping with the Transgender Day of Remembrance.

The Minnesota Center Against Violence and Abuse operates through the University’s School of Social Work and runs on a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.

The Minnesota Center Against Violence and Abuse said that the Transgender Day of Remembrance was observed in 110 locations and eight countries last year and is expected to grow this year.

To acknowledge those honored by the Transgender Day of Remembrance, the Minnesota Center Against Violence and Abuse has created a memorial wall that will be on display through Monday in Peters Hall on the St. Paul campus.

The wall displays more than 500 names and stories of victims of antitransgender violence from 1972 to the present. Students and faculty members are encouraged to bring items to decorate the memorial to commemorate the lives that have been lost.

“The response has been really encouraging,” said Yukiko Nakajima, a graduate assistant at the center.

The Minnesota Center Against Violence and Abuse is also holding a screening of the film “Boys Don’t Cry.” The movie is based on the true story of a transgender man who was raped and murdered in 1993. The film will be shown at 11:30 a.m. Friday in Peters Hall and is open to all.

“(The movie is) depressing, but it reminds us that this type of violence does exist,” Nakajima said.

Nakajima said statistics on anti-transgender violence are very hard to track.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety said that there was a 7 percent increase in bias-motivated crimes in Minnesota in 2003 and one transgender person on average is murdered every month in the United States.

The Minnesota Center Against Violence and Abuse said that it hopes the Transgender Day of Remembrance can curb the trend of violence toward transgender people and bring the issue into the public spotlight.

Transgender-remembrance events are gaining popularity worldwide.

“Many places are adopting more programs to draw more attention to the public eye,” Nakajima said.

There will be an off-campus day of remembrance for transgender victims of violence at the Spirit of the Lakes United Church of Christ in south Minneapolis. The event is at 7:00 p.m. Saturday and is open to all.