A mournful yet resolute crowd gathered Friday night in Palmer Commons for a Transgender Day of Remembrance, organized by several gay rights groups to recognize lives lost to crimes associated with gender identity.
The event, which about 100 people attended, commemorated individuals killed in hate crimes because of their gender identity or expression. It also honored activists who were killed fighting for the rights of transgender people.
This was the sixth year Ann Arbor has held a Transgender Day of Remembrance vigil, though similar events have been held internationally for nine years. The event was sponsored by the Spectrum Center, the Ann Arbor Human Rights Commission, the TGLB Matters Initiative of the School of Social Work and the Washtenaw Rainbow Action Project.
Rackham graduate student Anand Jay opened the ceremony by reading from poems he wrote about the prejudice transgender people face and the strength it takes to overcome it.
Following a poetry reading, vigil participants in the room each read the name of a transgender person who had been killed within the past year and placed a rose in a vase. After doing this, participants could take a stone to represent the strengths and challenges the transgender community faces.
According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, 2,424 victims reported anti-LGBT violence to the organization in 2008. LGBT murders are at their highest reported levels since 1999, the report found.
Public Policy junior Stephanie Parrish said she feels it’s important to have events like the Transgender Day of Remembrance because the transgender community is “often invisible, even within the LGBT community.”
“So I think that it helps to put them in the spotlight so we can be a real community for at least one day,” she said.
Denise Brogan-Kator, a transgender woman and co-founder of the Rainbow Law Center — a law firm dedicated to serving the LGBT community — said in a speech after the vigil that she hopes “the world will see the tragedy and the injustice and that they will someday embrace us.”
“There will be no memorial wall built by our country to honor them,” she added. “But make no mistake, these are our she-roes and our heroes.”
She also played “Taps” in memory of those who died and explained that, to her, “Taps” is a song “to say goodbye.”
Attendees were then invited to share stories of loved ones or anything else they felt like contributing.
Noah Meeks, an activist who came to the event, said he wanted to use his life to contribute to transgender rights.
“I woke up one day and I realized my life could have a greater impact on the world than my death,” he said.