About 40 people gathered at the Grandview Calvary Church off Commercial Drive Nov 20 to commemorate trans people who were murdered around the world in the last 12 months.
Vancouver Trans Day of Remembrance (TDOR) Society organizer Tami Starlight printed out 60 slips of paper, each one with a name, age, location, cause of death and date. Each person in the room took a slip or two and read them aloud in the first person, beginning with “My name is.”
According to a release from the Trans Murder Monitoring project, there were 238 reported killings of trans people in the past year, with Brazil and Mexico registering the highest number of murders, with 95 and 40 fatalities, respectively.
This latest update, covering the period Nov 20, 2012, to Nov 1, 2013, shows reported murders from 26 countries, including the US, with 15; Venezuela (16); Honduras and Colombia (12 each); and El Salvador (5). It also notes that from January 2008 to October 2013, there have been 1,374 reported murders of trans people in 60 countries, the numbers gathered with the help of trans activists and organizations, as well as through internet searches.
Vancouver’s society has been marking Nov 20 in different ways since 2001, when the city’s first event was a march down Davie Street followed by a memorial in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery.
Even after 12 years, Starlight says, the event’s focus is to recognize and memorialize the dead. The tradition of reading the names in the first person is one that comes from the first Trans Day of Remembrance event, held in San Francisco 14 years ago. Some who attended Vancouver’s event struggled to get through it without tears, but Starlight believes it serves a crucial purpose.
“You give voice to the people who have been silenced,” she says. “I feel like it’s such an honourable thing to do, to acknowledge who they were, where they lived, how they died.”
Moving forward, Starlight says, it’s up to those in the community with more privilege to lead the fight for greater rights and protections for all.
After a moment of silence, organizers opened the floor for attendees to share their thoughts and experiences. Several people spoke to their personal experiences with violence and suicide and noted that excluded from the yearly list of those who died are trans people who have taken their own lives.
Starlight says that the process for gathering the names has been controversial and that while it’s necessary to acknowledge the high rates of suicide among trans people, the focus of TDOR has always been to spotlight those who were murdered because they were visibly trans.
The discussion later turned to other events in the community, namely the upcoming talk by radical feminist Janice Raymond, known for her anti-trans writings and her opposition to the decriminalization of sex work. Presented by Vancouver Rape Relief, an organization also known for its anti-trans policies, Raymond’s talk on Nov 30 at the Vancouver Public Library will be part of a week of events marking the anniversary of the École Polytechnique massacre in Montreal.
Read the Vancouver Public Library's statement about the upcoming talk and its position on renting space to community groups here.