The Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) is observed annually on November 20th to memorialize those who were murdered due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. Although not every person represented during the Day of Remembrance self-identified as transgender, each was a victim of violence based on bias against transgender people. The Day of Remembrance is held in November to honor Rita Hester, whose murder in 1998 kicked off the “Remembering Our Dead” web project and a San Francisco candlelight vigil in 1999. Rita Hester’s murder — like most anti-transgender murder cases — has yet to be solved.
In 2015, BreakOUT coined the name Transgender Day of Resilience to reshift the narrative from one of trans deaths to trans survival and resilience. Read more about it here.
What is the purpose of the Transgender Day of Remembrance?
The Transgender Day of Remembrance raises public awareness of hate crimes against transgender people and publicly mourns and honors the lives of transgender people who might otherwise be forgotten. Through the vigil, we express love and respect in the face of national indifference and hatred. Day of Remembrance gives transgender people and their allies a chance to step forward and stand in vigil, memorializing those who’ve died by anti-transgender violence. Putting on the Day of Remembrance in schools can also be used as a way to educate students, teachers, and administrators about transgender issues, so we can try to prevent anti-transgender further hatred and violence.
What are the guiding principles of the Transgender Day of Remembrance?
These are the guiding principles developed by the organizers of the Day of Remembrance. You can use these words to help frame your message and tone for the day.
- “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” (Santayana)
- All who die due to anti-transgender violence are to be remembered.
- It’s up to us to remember them, since their killers, law enforcement, and media often seek to erase their existence.
- We can make a difference by being visible, speaking out, educating and organizing around anti-transgender violence.
- Transgender lives are affirmed as valuable.
How do people honor TDOR?
- Candlelight Vigils/Marches
- Discussion forums with local activists, politicians, or school officials, teach-ins, or speaker bureaus
- Poetry or spoken word art readings
- Visual representation of the number of deaths (for example with flowers or body outline chalkings)
- Art/Photography Displays
- Movie screenings (such as “Boys Don’t Cry”)
- Trans 101 trainings for staff or any interested people
Tips for planning a successful Day of Remembrance
- Make a plan. Your GSA should plan how you want to approach the project and what you want the day to consist of.
- Create a timeline. After deciding what it is your club would like to do, you should make a timeline so that everyone knows what needs to be done. Be sure to include who is in charge of each item and when it needs to be finished.
- Get more people involved. You should try to get as many people as possible aware of the event and involved in participating. You could do that by sending out e-mail announcements, advertising in the school newspaper, putting up flyers and posters, and of course, by word of mouth.
- Build coalitions. Consider collaborating with other school clubs. There might be a need for education on how violence affects different groups, as well as how anti-transgender violence disproportionately affects low-income youth of color. It is important for people to know how violence based on gender affects all communities.
- Issue a press release. Let the local media know about what you are doing to honor the Transgender Day of Remembrance. Describe the events at your school, history of the event, and use some quotes from GSA members about why you are doing the event. Be sure to include a phone number so a reporter can follow up for interviews.
- Get teachers/administrators/staff involved. Find out if staff are interested in participating.
- Let your principal know. Schedule a meeting with your principal to explain your plans for the Day of Remembrance.
- Be prepared! Have a pre-Transgender Day of Remembrance meeting to discuss positive ways to handle harassment from non-participants. Be prepared to have spokespersons from your group who can speak about the event. This is an emotionally charged subject, and can end up being a very “down” event. Provide remembrance of those we’ve lost, but also provide reassurance and healing for those in attendance.
- Announce the event. Post an announcement in the daily bulletin explaining the event and requesting that all staff and students be respectful of the students participating in the project.
- Coordinate volunteers. Ask people to help setup your event. Make sure that you have enough people for setup, monitoring the event, and cleanup.
- Provide resources. Have a resource spot or staffed table where people can find info about your GSA or other LGBTQ groups and resources.
- Organize visual displays. Organize some sort of visible display such as having your participants wear a sticker or T-shirt that commemorates a victim of anti-transgender violence.
- Hold your event. During the event, be sure to: let people know what the purpose of the event is, have speakers discussing transgender issues, read the names of people victimized by anti-transgender violence, describe the meaning of the visual art you have used on campus (e.g. cardboard cutouts, chalkings, etc.), close the event, and thank everyone for coming.
- Create a safe space. Due to the intensity of the event — you should think of creative ways to create a safe space, such as a safe room where people can go if they need to reflect or talk about their feelings.
- Continue the education. Host a discussion about how to raise awareness of transgender people every day as opposed to one day out of the year. The Day of Remembrance can be a perfect opportunity to raise people’s awareness of and interest in transgender issues. Some ideas for addressing larger issues within the school or community include:
- Adding “gender identity and gender expression” to the school’s handbook
- Having a Trans 101 training for faculty and staff
- Campaigning for some restrooms be gender neutral and available to people of all genders to use
- Educating your GSA on trans issues and how to be better trans allies
- Evaluate the day. Evaluate the successes of the day and discuss what improvements could be made for next year.
- Plan for next year. Lay groundwork for the next Transgender Day of Remembrance.
This resource sheet was adapted from materials published by the Transgender Day of Remembrance, a project of Gender Education and Advocacy.