by Marisa Richmond, Ph.D.
Every November, transgender activists gather at sites all around the world to mark the annual International Transgender Day of Remembrance, a memorial service on behalf of transgender victims of hate crimes. On Sunday, November 20, the Tennessee Vals and the Tennessee Transgender Political Action Committee present the Seventh Annual International Transgender Day of Remembrance in Nashville .
The Nashville ceremony will take place on Sunday, November 20, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at First Unitarian Universalist Church , 1808 Woodmont Boulevard . The event is free and open to the public.
The first Transgender Day of Remembrance was a candlelight vigil held in San Francisco on November 28, 1999 . It was organized by local Trans activist Gwen Smith to mark the first anniversary of the murder of Rita Hester, who died of multiple stab wounds in Boston . Hester’s murder has not yet been solved. In 2000, memorial services were held in 14 cities, while in 2001, 23 cities participated. Nashville joined in November 2002, becoming one of over 90 locations in eight countries on three continents around the world which hosted events against this sort of violence. A ceremony was held in Memphis in 2003, while Knoxville held its first ceremony in 2004.
Since the last Day of Remembrance in November 2004, there have been 21 reported murders related to gender identity or expression. These murders have occurred in eight countries on five continents. The most dangerous countries for transgendered people are the United States of America, where 10 of these crimes have been documented over the past year, and Argentina with five reported murders.
Since 1970, when statistics started being kept, 361 people have lost their lives in gender related hate crimes. One of the most dangerous cities in the country is Nashville with six murders, although others have been recorded in Memphis , Knoxville and Chattanooga as well. Violence is especially a problem for those who are African American or Latino.
While the majority of victims have been Transwomen, Transmen have also been victimized by brutal hate crimes as illustrated by the story of Brandon Brayman (a.k.a. Brandon Teena), who was murdered along with two friends in Humboldt, Nebraska, on New Year’s Eve, 1993, as shown in the award winning film, Boys Don’t Cry.
Currently, most jurisdictions that have hate crimes laws do not cover the Transgender community. In 2005, two states—Colorado and Maryland—passed Trans-inclusive hate crimes laws, bringing the number of states, along with the District of Columbia, which have laws that cover Trans people to 10. Tennessee is not one of those 10 states. On September 14, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Hate Crimes Prevention Act with language to cover trans persons for the first time in history. Three Tennesseans voted in favor of this legislation: Jim Cooper, Harold Ford, Jr., and Bart Gordon.
For more information about the International Transgender Day of Remembrance, please visit http://www.rememberingourdead.org. For more information about the Tennessee Vals, contact PO Box 331006 , Nashville, TN 37203, (615) 664-6883 or http://www.tvals.org. For more information about the Tennessee Transgender Political Action Committee, visit http://tenntg.com or contact TTGPAC@aol.com, PO Box 92335 , Nashville 37209.