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Transgender victims honored for Transgender Day of Remembrance

Members of the Mills community gathered in the chapel for Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) on Nov. 20 to remember the lives of transgender people murdered this passed year.

This is the second year Mills has held a memorial for TDOR, to remember the 271 lives lost around the world due to transphobia.  The event was held by Gender Splendor, with club president Erin Armstrong leading the dialogue.  Armstrong explained that this year is the 16th year TDOR has occurred, the first being in 1999 after the murder of transwoman  Rita Hester.

“This is an issue that we continue to struggle with,” Armstrong said.  “This year was a brutal year.”

Armstrong read a statement released by the Obama administration that acknowledged the importance of holding a day to remember the lives lost to transphobia all over the world.  She said the president’s acknowledgment of TDOR is important because he is the very first sitting president to do so and support it. While it’s important to remember those the community has lost, it’s also crucial to fight for the living, Armstrong said.

“Fighting, for me, means being authentic in who I am,” Armstrong said.  “It means coming to school here at Mills everyday and being okay, being out as a transwoman.  That is something that is not easy to do, but it is something that is important.”

However, Armstrong says that fighting for the living is not the same for everyone, but she hoped the space would provide a safe space for others to reflect on that.

In addition to Armstrong, Marcel Million and Akira Jackson told their stories of what they have encountered in the world and the violence against transpeople they have seen.

Million mentioned that 22 of the murder victims in the United States have been people of color.  She said that she fears for her life and the lives of all her “sisters” everyday.

“We are constantly at war with the other six billion people on the planet who don’t believe we’re authentic,” Million said.

Jackson talked about her own experiences with transphobia, both against herself and her friends.  Two people she was close with, one in San Francisco and another in Detroit, were both murdered.  She also spoke about a personal experience with a former boyfriend who attacked her.

“I felt this [feeling of] the hairs on the back of my neck stand up,” she said.  “I haven’t felt that often in life.”

Because she defended herself, Jackson was incarcerated for three and a half years, and then after she was released was placed in a halfway house with all men.  The prison system is not ideal for transpeople, she said.

Following the speakers was the reading of the names of the 271 victims murdered in in the last year all throughout the world.  Armstrong explained that compiling the list is very difficult because oftentimes the news reports on the murders misgender the victims.  Students lined up to speak every single name of a murdered transperson.

So many names were on the list that there was no time left for an open mic.