16 Nov 2022
Trans Day of Remembrance 2022
Some thoughts on trans remembrance, and on trans joy
Content note: Discussion of transphobic violence and other forms of discrimination
Written by Jo Gower (they/them), Lead Trainer at Diversifying Group
Trans Day of Remembrance (TDOR) is a time for us to remember and honour the trans and gender-diverse people who have been murdered in the last year due to transphobic violence, and also educate and fight for the rights of those still with us. It started in Massachusetts in 1999, as a small group of people memorialising the death of their friend, Rita Hester. Since then, it has vastly expanded, with hundreds of cities observing the day throughout more than 20 countries.
I’m not going to go into the detail of how each of the 384 people this year were murdered – this information is available on the internet but, in honesty, I don’t think it does any good to spread it. Trans people are already subjected to a huge number of portrayals of horrendous violence and discrimination toward us in the media and adding to the huge psychological toll of this barrage of hatred in order to satisfy curiosity seems unfair and cruel. What I will do is talk about the issues surrounding TDOR, how it feels to be trans in the current climate, and something often forgotten in these discussions – trans joy.
The vast majority of trans people killed each year are trans women and femmes, predominantly trans women/femmes of colour. Many of the people murdered also worked in the sex industry and/or are migrants. For this reason, it is impossible to separate TDOR from discussions of racism, sexism, gender-based violence, violence against sex workers, and xenophobia. If we’re to tackle transphobia and the violence it perpetuates, we also need to tackle all of these things head-on, because trans people are more than just trans. We are your friends, family, and colleagues, in all their beautiful, complex, and imperfect glory. We are of all ages, sexualities, ethnicities, disabilities, social classes, occupations, nationalities, expressions, and histories, and we have always been these things. We love, we experience fear, joy, sadness, and anxiety, and that sense of being so small within the grand scheme of things when we look up at the night sky and see the stars. We smile at cute videos of animals being silly, we get frustrated when that client doesn’t provide the document they promised, we get the post-lunch slump, we have toys from childhood that we just can’t let go of, and every time we look at the news or social media we see people who hate and fear us being given a platform to tell everybody else why they should hate and fear us, too. One popular online newspaper published 13 anti-trans articles in the space of one week, with nothing positive published at all.
We need our cisgender allies to step up and fight for us. We need you to openly boycott, to call out transphobic dog-whistles, to join us in the streets when we’re protesting, to sign petitions against discriminatory policies, to educate yourselves and others, to take the actions that make being an ally a verb rather than a noun. The role of an ally is a complex one, I know – you need to balance listening with using your platform to speak. A helpful tip is to think of yourself as a microphone rather than the speaker behind it – you can use your position in society to amplify our voices as trans people rather than speak on our behalf. Because we are speaking, we’re just not being listened to.
It is hard to exist as a trans person right now. For those who are visibly trans and gender-diverse, it’s hard to choke down the anxiety every time we leave the house and convince ourselves that today will not be the day that we’re attacked on the street like our friend was yesterday. That today will not be the day we will feel that pain, and anger, and hopelessness. That today will not be the day we are denied our humanity. It goes beyond isolated transphobia, though. Racist abuse is rising in the UK, so is hatred based on religion, sexuality, and disability, and all of the hate-crime numbers are heightened when you consider the trans population. We’re seen as a more acceptable target for hatred and bigotry, and people feel more able to act on it when we are the targets. But we are resilient (by necessity, we shouldn’t have to be). We find ways to feel those intrinsic parts of being trans that are joyful, and euphoric, and so often not spoken about.
As a society, when discussing trans people, we speak often of gender dysphoria – that incredibly negative and distressing feeling we feel when our bodies don’t match up to our sense of self. But not every trans person experiences this dysphoria, and every single trans person I know has experienced the reverse – gender euphoria, the intensely positive feeling when your true name is said, when your pronouns are respected, when we can dress and express ourselves in a way that feels like us. We find euphoria in the small things; in that nail polish colour that just matches with how we feel that day, the design on that mug we use for our morning coffee that feels like it fits with our sense of self. We also find joy in the big things; in our communities, in our creativity, in the people we love who love us in return. I truly believe that by encouraging people to speak more about gender euphoria we can better understand trans people as whole people, not as victims or as people without hope. We can rally our allies to actually act rather than being all words. And maybe, just maybe, this will help to reduce the violence we’re facing.
On this Trans Day of Remembrance, we memorialise those we have lost to transphobic violence. But we also celebrate those who are still with us, and those joys that make being trans a beautiful thing that we can be proud of. It’s just time for the rest of the world to catch up.
For the names of those we remember today, please see below: