Over 50 people commemorated Transgender Day of Remembrance with speeches and a candlelit vigil on the New Haven Green Wednesday evening.
The event, which included a “vigil and speakout,” was one of hundreds of such gatherings around the country for TDoR, which annually commemorates transgender lives lost due to trans violence and its mental health repercussions. The New Haven event was organized by the Connecticut chapter of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, the New Haven Pride Center and ANSWER CT.
“The effect of murders and violence against trans people, especially trans women of color, is something we have known about long before TDoR was established,” IV Staklo, an organizer from the Party for Socialism and Liberation, told the News in an interview. “This day is a good day to let us reflect on what our community is going through and to remember the people that we have lost.”
The vigil began with speeches from organizers who emphasized the importance of remembering those lost while simultaneously celebrating the living trans community. They described the event not just as a vigil, but as a space for transgender people to meet and support one another.
Members of the crowd were given candles and pictures of those who had died since the last TDoR across the country. The group stood in a circle and read out their names, their ages, the dates of their deaths and where they lived. This year, the vigil commemorated the 25 transgender people — predominantly trans women of color — in the United States who died in the last year due to documented trans-violence and suicide. Organizers said that this was a conservative estimate, as there are likely many more people whose names and stories are not known to the public.
After the vigil, attendees were welcomed to voice their experiences and thoughts. Activists told their stories and chanted “trans is beautiful” with the rest of the group. Nash Keyes ’21, the co-president of Trans@Yale, also spoke and praised the Yale and New Haven communities for having a combined vigil this year, as opposed to the separate commemorations of years past.
“I’m really glad that we finally can be together with the New Haven community this year in ways that we haven’t been able to in the past because that’s really important,” Keyes told the News after their speech. “It is incredible to be able to be out here with all the people who are actually doing the work that needs to be done.”
Other speakers touched on TDoR’s “dual factor of remembrance and resilience” as an integral component of the day. After commemorating the lives lost, Staklo invited attendees to walk to the New Haven Pride Center for free food, a community resource exchange, a free community closet and access to providers with either trans leadership or medical services. Staklo said these resources will hopefully help support the trans community in New Haven.
New Haven resident Emmett McMullan highlighted the importance of service for members of trans communities. McMullan thought the vigil was “beautiful” when first attending TDoR in New Haven and decided to get more involved, they said.
“I feel deeply, now more than ever, that I have a responsibility as someone who has survived suicide, who has survived depression and anxiety, that I should go to our community and participate and volunteer in support groups to help the folks that are still dominated by fear,” McMullan said.
TDoR was first commemorated in 1999 by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith.
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