Every November 20th is poignant for the queer community; it is a day for honouring the memory of trans persons who have lost their lives due to violence. Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) today is a reminder that transphobia is very much alive and present in the “woke” new millennium.
What is Transgender Day of Remembrance?
TDOR was founded more than 20 years ago as a vigil by fierce trans advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith. The vigil was primarily held in memory of transwoman Rita Hester, who was murdered a year before. The event also paid tribute to all the other transgender people who had lost their lives due to transphobia and acts of violence. In so doing began an annual tradition called Transgender Day of Remembrance which gains more ground every year.
Fatal and non-fatal violence against the trans community continues to this day all over the world, and in India as well. This is another type of gender-based violence. The numbers tell one story since a majority of the cases go underreported. Trans victims are wary of the police, justice and media because they are misrepresented and called out by the names given to them at birth, not the identity they have chosen to embrace.
Beloved Indian trans activist murdered
The latest anti-transgender crime took place as recently as October 2020. The queer community was shocked when 55-year-old transgender activist Sangeeta was found dead in her own apartment in Coimbatore, her mutilated body rotting in a plastic drum.
Sangeeta was an entrepreneur who was also making her own community more employable. Sangeeta had started Covai Trans-Kitchen where 12 transgender persons and others were employed. Loved and respected by activists in Tamil Nadu as a humanitarian, she also ran the NGO Coimbatore Transgender Welfare Trust.
Moved by the loss of livelihood during the COVID-19 pandemic within the transgender community in Coimbatore, she opened Covai Trans-Kitchen so they could earn a decent living. Social distancing norms during the lockdown had forced many trans people to take to begging on the streets, since they were also discriminated against. Sangeeta was one of the sources of light in the darkness, which was snuffed out too soon. The police arrested a 23-year-old man working in her restaurant for the murder.
How can I participate in Transgender Day of Remembrance?
Whether you belong to any faction of the queer community or not, anyone can participate in TDOR.
1) You can attend a vigil today in memory of all the people who have lost their lives to anti-transgender violence. LGBTQ activists and trans advocates usually host TDOR vigils in a public place.
2) If there is no vigil in your city, then organise one. Read out the names of all the victims of anti-transgender violence this year.
3) Educate yourself about transphobia and violence against the trans community.