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Transgender Day of Remembrance: paying respect to lost lives

The Transgender Pride Flag was designed by a transwoman named Monica Helms in 1999 and has become a symbol for the fight for trans rights.
The Transgender Pride Flag was designed by a transwoman named Monica Helms in 1999 and has become a symbol for the fight for trans rights. (Wikimedia Commons)

Zoraida “Ale” Reyes, Tiffany Edwards, Ashley Sherman, Gizzy Fowler, Yaz’min Shancez, Betty Skinner, Brittany Stergis, Kandy Hall, Mia Henderson, Alejandra Leos, Aniya Parker.

These are the names of just some of the transgender and gender-variant people who were murdered in the United States in the past year. The list goes on for far too long. Many of the people on this list are transgender women of color. Many of them were shot, strangled, stabbed or beaten. And many of them are listed as “Name Unknown.”

Transgender Day of Remembrance allows us to show our support for all of these people. It allows each and every person on that list to be rememberedeven those who remain nameless. As someone who holds the issue of anti-trans violence very close to her heart, I urge you to take part in mourning these victims.

When my significant other came out to me as transgender and began transitioning, there were many things that I thought I understood. I thought I understood how difficult it would be for them, and the struggles that trans people face. I thought I understood what being trans meant. I thought their transition was something we would go through together. I was wrong.

Learning how many trans people have been attacked in public — thousands — has made me realize the magnitude of what my significant other is going through, and that it is their experience.

As a cisgender woman (meaning that I identify with the sex I was assigned at birth), I am aware of the fact that I have privilege that my significant other (and the much of the trans community) does not. I can walk into a public bathroom without having to wonder if I will be stared at, screamed at, kicked out or even assaulted. I don’t have to worry about someone using the wrong pronouns or the wrong name. I’ve never had a coworker grope me because they’re “curious.” I don’t have to deal with people interrogating me about my body and my identity. These are things that many people don’t realize are privileges because they have never had to think about them.

So, no, I do not know what being trans means. I do not — and cannot — fully comprehend what my significant other — and the many other transgender and gender-variant people around the world — is facing. I cannot ever fully understand what it is like to live the trans experience or to transition. What I can do is show my support. I can be there for my significant other, and I can respect the identities of everyone around me. I can be aware of the privilege that I have, and I can help to remember the lives that have been lost.

Everyone has the right to be respected for who they are and to express themselves truly. The names on that ever-growing list belong to people who were all denied this right. On Transgender Day of Remembrance, please, don’t let a single one of them go forgotten. Whether you are trans, gender-variant, queer, cis; whether you love someone who is trans or have never met a trans person in your whole life, find a way to remember them. Lighting a candle, taking a day of silence, attending a ceremony, even simply reading their names — anything. Remember them as brave individuals who fought to be themselves.

Let’s give them the respect that they deserve.