Remembrance and resilience

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The GSRC celebrated its 20th anniversary of Transgender Day of Remembrance. Photo courtesy of the GSRC's Facebook.

University of Northern Colorado’s Gender and Sexuality Resource Center faculty celebrated the 20th anniversary of Transgender Day of Remembrance on Wednesday evening. During this annual event, people from around the globe get together to remember transgender victims lost to both transphobic and anti-transgender violence. Transgender describes an individual whose gender identity does not correspond with his/her/their sex assigned to at birth. Transphobia constitutes any and all prejudice against transgender or transsexual people.

This celebration typically begins by remembering the countless acts of violence against transgender people throughout history. For many years, the community suffered through denied employment, houses and healthcare. The dawn of the LGBTQ+ resistance began with a very powerful uproar in 1969, known as the Stonewall Riots, a historical event looked upon with inspiration. This spark created a rebellion that has continued ever since.

This violence has existed throughout the years, several cases never documented, and finally in 1998, TDOR was established as a national annual event to honor the victims of violence, share stories and fight.

The director of the GSRC, Stephen Loveless (they/them/their), and GSRC Graduate Assistant Rowen Thomas (they/them/their), used the day’s anniversary to create awareness for acts of violence as well as provide inspiration to continue a resistance. At this year’s celebration, a list of names was read aloud of all the documented victims of transgender violence from the previous year. However, Loveless and Thomas transformed the event into TDORR, Transgender Day of Remembrance and Resilience. The new word represents supporting each other, giving each other strength, and supplies a new meaning.

The GSRC staff provided insightful facts including: numerous attacks are targeted on trans women of color, the amount of victims increases every year and the average life-expectancy of a transgender person is 31 years. The GSRC’s addition an of extra “R” to the annual remembrance was designed to give a new perspective. According to Thomas, traditionally TDOR tends to be a sad and somber event, but this year GSRC wanted to create a feeling of hope.

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“We added the second ‘R’ because we are not the first, and we are not alone,” Thomas said.

The addition of the second “R” emanates hope. A list of historical activists’ names was read aloud by Loveless and Thomas to show how people have made a difference in the past. The list included Mary Jones, a trans woman who was one of the first transgender people recorded during the 1830’s, and Marsha “Pay It No Mind” Johnson, who was famous during the uprising in 1969.

Loveless and Thomas also talked about current activists from whom to gain inspiration. There are many activists today such as Kat Blaque, a YouTuber and transgender-rights activist, and Isis King, a model and actress who was the first trans woman to compete on “America’s Next Top Model.”

“We need, in times like these, to see these advocates,” Loveless said. “We need to make sure our community does not get erased.”

The staff provided three steps to take action for both transgender people and cisgender people. Cisgender individuals are those whose gender identity align with the sex they were assigned to at birth.

  1. If one witnesses transphobic actions or violence (misgendering, laughing at people with gender non-conforming expression, harassment, physical violence), act by reporting or assisting the victim, especially if one is cisgender.
  2. Learn more about identities across the gender, sexuality and romantic spectrums by attending a workshop or training (SafeZone 101, 201, Straight Facts for Queer Life).
  3. Regularly contact state and federal legislators to demand they vote against anti-transgender legislation and vote for legislation that protects transgender individuals against education, housing, workplace, and general discrimination. (https://openstates.org/find_your_legislator/)

According to Loveless, Colorado is one of only 18 states that has laws protecting transgender people from discrimination, but there is still much to work on. Some legislators have tried to pass laws that do not allow transgender people to use certain bathrooms and the law still permits conversion therapy to be legal, despite the American Psychiatric Association denouncing it.

Loveless said UNC has made gigantic steps by adding more alternate bathrooms and having a strong program of support right on campus, but there is always more to do. Thomas said they believe the best way to show support is to be cognizant of the privilege to be cisgender, spread awareness of LGBTQ+, and “help do the work,” primarily by educating oneself and others.

“Transgender history has not been taught in schools, so how else are we supposed to learn about it?” Loveless said.

According to Loveless and Thomas,  awareness can be the key to change. Both believe society needs to comprehend how this is not a new phenomenon; it has been a struggle for a long time, and the LGBTQ+ community can use every ounce of support.

“We should all be fighting for what’s right,” Loveless said.

The GSRC is open to all UNC students and faculty, as well as all gender and sexual identities. More information about their events and resources can be found on their website. https://www.unco.edu/gender-sexuality-resource-center/

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