Community activists gathered Wednesday afternoon by City Hall for a chilly, solemn speak-out event in commemoration of International Transgender Day of Remembrance. They then marched and chanted their way to the Yale Women’s Table for a candlelit vigil mourning transgender victims of hate crimes, part of Yale’s Trans/gender Awareness Week.
Women Organized to Resist and Defend, a feminist advocacy organization in New Haven, planned the demonstration, which began with several transgender activists and allies giving speeches about violence and discrimination transgender people face through a bullhorn.
One transgender rights activist present at the rally said that disturbing statistics, such as the attempted suicide rate of 41 percent among transgender Americans — compared to the national average of 1.6 percent — often result from transgender people’s alienation from their families. He stressed the importance of support from within the LGBTQ community.
“We need to be strong as a community, mourn our dead, and come together in solidarity to make a change,” he said.
According to a fact sheet distributed by organizers, male-to-female transgender people run a one in 12 risk of being murdered, and a vast majority of these victims are women of color.
Other activists raised issues of police brutality, lack of medical access and, above all, hate-motivated violence, which they said often goes underreported and under-investigated. One activist said she had been assaulted four times, once by a police officer.
Other local organizations represented at the event included the Act Now to Stop War and End Racism Coalition, Seminarians for a Democratic Society, the People’s Arts Collective and the Food Not Bombs campaign.
The main organizer of the event, Ina Staklo, said she felt demonstrations for LGBTQ rights are often too passive to push for serious changes and wanted this demonstration to be more assertive and solemn.
“We’re hoping to spark an organized struggle to fight back and demand equal rights here in New Haven, which is and activist-rich community,” she said.
She said WORD got involved with the transgender day of remembrance after seeing parallels between transgender hate crime victims and rape victims.
A prevailing sentiment throughout the speak-out was that issues of sexism, racism and classism are intertwined with the struggle for transgender rights.
After several speeches and chants, the group marched down Elm Street to the Women’s Table on Cross Campus, where Yale Trans/gender Awareness Week participants joined them for an interfaith candlelit vigil for the 238 transgender individuals from around the world who were murdered this year. Participants held lit candles in a circle, sang an interfaith spiritual and listened to a secular sermon delivered by Reverend Ian Oliver from the Chaplain’s Office.
Angel Collie DIV ’14, who organized Trans/gender Week, said he and his co-organizers centered the week around this event to recognize the thousands of lives lost to hate and intolerance and to hope for a brighter future.
“It’s beautiful, but I wish we didn’t have to do it,” he said. “I pray for a day when we’re celebrating rather than mourning.”
The group then had dinner together in the Berkeley College dining hall to reflect on the event, followed by a workshop on non-binary gender identity.
Trans/gender Awareness Week at Yale concludes today with a screening of a documentary entitled “Trans” at 6 p.m. in Room 351 at the Loria Center.