On Nov. 20, 2015, the St. Louis region will join communities across the globe in observing the Transgender Day of Remembrance or TDoR. This is the time of year where it is appropriate for trans* people, members of the LGBT community, allies, friends, and all, to discuss:

What is the Transgender Day or Remembrance? What does it mean - to all, or any of us?

So the history is this: TDoR was started by trans advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith as a vigil to honor the memory of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was killed in 1998. The vigil commemorated all the trans people lost to violence that year and began an important memorial that has become the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance. From 1999 forward, the service has continued, spreading across the world. A hallmark of the service is the reading of the names (where known) of all of those who have been murdered since the previous year.

Now everything you’ve just read is pretty much the same as what I wrote last year about TDoR. But that’s where the similarities end. No one - not even those of us active in the movement for trans civil rights - could have foreseen the year that 2015 has been.

2015 marked the unprecedented and heightened awareness of the American public regarding trans people and trans issues. This is due in part to shows like Transparent and Sens8te by Lana Wachowski, and the work of Janet Mock and Laverne Cox. It is due to films like The Danish Girl and the emergence of public figures like Caitlyn Jenner.

The uptick of awareness is also due to the everyday increase in visibility of trans people. Just as our gay and lesbian siblings won allies and support through increased visibility, so too are trans people. There was a time when no one knew anything about us and no one could say they knew one of us. That has changed - is still changing - and said awareness will continue to evolve.

Other changes are much less welcome. Since 2010, incidents of anti-LGBT violence - from physical assault to murder, is up 600% according to some accounts (due to lack of consistent reporting requirements, it’s impossible for any two studies to come up with the same number on a national basis, so this can only be considered a guesstimate). Further, more than 40% of that violence is directed at trans people, even though we comprise roughly .3% of the U.S. population, or just 750,000 people.

When it comes to murder, the numbers become even more stratified: 23 trans people have been killed in the U.S. alone this year. That number, too, is subject to debate. Due to misidentification, misgendering, and poor reporting, some say the number is only 21. We think the number is far, far, far higher. Of those 23 murders, all were trans women and 21 were trans women of color.

But endemic violence and murder aren’t the only challenges facing the community. Institutional discrimination and transphobic bias gift us with these statistics: The average trans person makes less than $10,000 per year and 90% of trans women with degrees are underemployed. The national unemployment rate is 5.1% and the unemployment rate for trans folk is 28%. (For trans women, 38%. For Trans women of color, 60%.) Violence and poverty, murder and discrimination, institutionalized racism and transphobia, still plague our community in 2015.

How can this be? At a time of greater visibility, of greater acceptance - how can we see these realities of growing violence and bigotry side-by-side with progress?

Simple. It’s called polarization. Those regions/states/demographics more predisposed to finding or considering acceptance and equality for trans folk have done so. Those leaning more towards ideologically-driven hate and violence, are now more so.

In the year of the landmark Obergefell v. Hodges SCOTUS decision on June 26, we’ve seen 110 state bills nationwide attacking LGBTQIA+ civil rights, a majority of which are wrapped in the false flag of “religious freedom”, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Half of those were “bathroom bills”, blocking the rights of trans people to public accommodation.

The most famous of these battles happened just earlier this month, with the 61%-37% defeat of the Houston HERO ordinance, which would have made ageism illegal; protected the rights of veterans, disabled people, and provided protections for sexual orientation and gender identity, along with 10 other groups. It was defeated because of a religious right push painting trans women as sexual predators with an insatiable need to assault cis women and children in the bathroom. This, even though there isn’t one, NOT A SINGLE documented instance of a trans woman having done so. Yet since 2010, there are over 2000 documented instances of trans people being physically assaulted in or around bathrooms; in bars and restaurants, doctors offices, and other areas of public accommodation.

So what’s next? As we approach the Transgender Day Of Remembrance this Friday, November 20, and both mourn and celebrate the lost lives of our siblings, how do we view the future? Leaving 2015 behind; the year Collins English Dictionary named the word “transgender” as one of the “words of the year”, what do we focus on? What do we set our sights on as a community?

I feel that for now, in the immediate future, our posture is defensive. Our trans siblings of color are facing institutionalized violence and discrimination at epic levels. We must address this first. I also know, beyond a doubt, that 2016 will have even more “bathroom bills” than 2015. We must prepare for these challenges.

But I refuse to counsel against hope. After spending this much time writing of our recent grim history, challenges, and tragedies, I will end now with an urgent call to our community, our friends, and our allies. That call is HOPE. We must look to the future with hope. We must hope, and work, and pray, for a year to come when on the 20th day of November, we have no names to read. Peace.

For those wishing to attend an event marking TDoR, here are some of the events in the area:

Dedication of the Transgender Memorial Garden, Friday, Nov. 20
4:30 PM
Corner of Vandeventer & Hunt
St. Louis, MO 63130

Built last month, this garden is a memorial to those trans people who lost their lives to transphobic violence. It is believed to be the first garden of its kind in the United States. The ceremony marking the dedication begins at 4:30 p.m. and is hosted by the Metro Trans Umbrella Group.

Transgender Day of Remembrance Service, Friday, Nov. 20
Metropolitan Community Church of Greater St. Louis
7:00 PM
1920 Seventh St.
St. Louis, MO 63130

A nondenominational, open and welcoming service available to all, inviting the entire community to come together to commemorate the lives of trans people lost in 2015. A dessert service, conversation, and fellowship will follow.

Transgender Day of Remembrance Service, Friday, Nov. 20
Missouri State Capitol
4 PM 
201 West Capitol Ave.
Jefferson City, MO 65101

Come join us this Friday, Nov. 20 on the steps of the Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City at 4 p.m. for a rally and candlelight vigil to show your support in observance of TDoR. This event is open to ALL in the LGBTQI (and ally) community. Bring your family and friends... we have been in touch with queer and trans groups all around the state and hope for a very large turnout.

Transgender Day Of Remembrance Service, Saturday, Nov. 21
Epiphany UCC Church
7:00 PM
2911 McNair Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63118

Hosted by the Gateway Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, St. Louis has one of the oldest traditions in the nation commemorating TDoR, with the roots of its 2001 founding including collaboration with LGBT and trans rights pioneer Sylvia Rivera. The service begins at 7:00 p.m. (no photos please) and is followed by a community potluck. All are welcome; bring a side dish or dessert if so moved.


Transgender Day of Remembrance at SWIC, Nov. 24

Southwestern Illinois College
11 a.m.
2500 Carlyle Ave.
Belleville, IL 62221

Set up begins at 10, and takedown lasts until 2:30. The event is in the Student Lounge outside the cafeteria. The lounge is the room with the little stage and tv.


All apologies for any events missed here. We'll gladly update by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Jaimie Hileman is Board President of Metro Trans Umbrella Group.



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