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Transgender Day of Remembrance: A Marker That Being Visible Isn’t Enough

The irony that Transgender Day of Remembrance (November 20th) marks the end of Transgender Awareness Week (13th - 19th November) isn’t lost on many in the trans community. If anything, it’s a stark reminder that trans awareness isn’t enough; despite trans folk being more visible than ever - so is anti-trans hatred. 

Tea lights and candles lay on the ground in front of various bunches of flowers.
cmannphoto from Getty Images Signature

The Origins of Transgender Day of Remembrance

The first Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) was organised by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith in 1999, as a way to honour the memory of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was killed the year before. In the years following, nationwide vigils took place on 20th November to remember all those who lost their lives from acts of anti-trans violence that year. 

However, the date has another significance. It also officially marks the end of Transgender Awareness Week: five days dedicated to educating the public about trans and gender non-conforming lives - and the violence currently facing the community. 

Putting a day remembering all the transgender lives lost at the end of a week devoted to proving these lives actually exist isn’t accidental. It’s a way to show that even though we’ve made some progress, there’s still so much work to be done. Especially when it feels like we’ve gone so far backwards in 2023 alone.

Anti-Trans Hatred in the UK

The UK was recently voted as one of the worst places to be transgender; an award that’s unsurprising after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak publicly stated “a man is a man and a woman is a woman, that’s just common sense” and firmly solidified anti-trans hatred as widespread in the media and government agendas.

We can see the soaring statistics of transphobic hate crimes in the East London attack of two trans women and a gay man in their home in April this year, or the tragic death of 16-year-old Brianna Ghey back in February. 

It seems now, Transgender Day of Remembrance is more important - and more triggering - than ever.

Person holding a handmade protest sign reading
Oriel Frankie Ashcroft from Pexels

Transgender Awareness Week: We’re Visible, Now What?

As a trans-owned business, Rainbow & Co knows just how important Transgender Awareness Week is to the community. However, we can’t help but think it feels more and more futile, especially when the week ends with a day of mourning. 

Aside from the question of why is it transfolks’ job to convince the world that trans and gender non-conforming people have the same rights, it’s also important to acknowledge the paradox that more visibility can also lead to more discrimination, harassment, and violence. 

Not to mention that most of the Trans Awareness Week events in workplaces will be run through LGBTQ+ office organisations made up of trans people and allies who already know transfolk have the right to exist.

They’re not the people who need convincing. What good is Amanda from HR’s trans-flag cookies if Steve from Sales still mutters “A man is a man and a woman is a woman, that’s just common sense” under his breath? 

The Limits of Trans Visibility

Awareness of trans and gender non-conforming people can only go so far. Transgender Day of Remembrance is evidence that there are limits to trans visibility alone. 

The problem now isn’t convincing people that trans and gender non-conforming people exist in the UK, it’s convincing them that they should.

How to Be a Supportive Trans Ally

Transgender Day of Remembrance can be particularly triggering for trans people. If you want to support the community during this time, you can:

  • Check in with your trans friends and family members
  • Give your trans friends space to grieve 
  • Support organisations that advocate for transgender rights
  • Stand up for trans colleagues at work
  • Amplify the voices of trans and gender non-conforming individuals
  • Attend a Transgender Day of Remembrance vigil

Where Is My Nearest Transgender Day of Remembrance Vigil?

Vigils for Transgender Day of Remembrance are held up and down the country. These vigils often involve reading aloud a list of the names of trans people lost that year, so can be particularly difficult to attend.

While these vigils can be triggering, we urge allies to attend to show their solidarity with the trans community.

These are just some of the various vigils happening on 20th November this year:

Manchester – Vimto Park, 39 Sackville St, Manchester M1 3WE, from 6.30pm - 8.30pm

Cardiff - Cardiff National Museum, Main Hall, from 6:30pm - 8:30pm

London - Soho Square from 6:30pm - 8:30pm

Image of Tilly, a smiling woman with blonde hair and blue eyes.

Tilly Brogan

Tilly is a queer Freelance Copywriter based in Manchester. She balances her time between working  with LGBTQ+ organisations and women’s rights charities - and people watching in various Manchester cafes. She is also a proud lesbian. You can read more of her work here.

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