CHARLOTTE, N.C — About 60 community members attended a special memorial and vigil commemorating the national Transgender Day of Remembrance on Wednesday evening.
The memorial was held to honor victims of violent crime who were targeted due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. Speakers addressed the audience inside the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte before walking outside for a candlelight vigil.
“For the past eight years we’ve held this event,” said Roberta Dunn, the first transgender-identified chair of the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte. “Every year I say I hope it’s the last one we’ll ever have, but this doesn’t end.”
National organizers of the event counted at least 70 cases of anti-transgender murders this year. Transgender people are more likely than the broader gay and lesbian community to face violence and intimidation, according to a 2012 report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs. The majority, nearly 54 percent, of anti-LGBT homicide victims were transgender women. Transgender students in K-12 schools report significantly higher rates of bullying and harassment. According to a 2011 report from the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, 35 percent of transgender students report being physically assaulted and 12 percent sexually assaulted.
Dean Messer, an organizer with PRISM, a local group for youth ages 18-26, said the event has important meaning and purpose.
“On Transgender Day of Remembrance we come together to honor the lives we lost and reflect on the potential that will never be fulfilled because they were taken away from us,” Messer said.
Constance Brooks told the crowd about some of the victims and their stories.
“All of these people had goals and ambitions,” she said. “They had families, lovers and friends. Everyone of those names represents a life cut short.”
And, transgender people, Brooks said, understand and know fear.
“No person should have to live their life in fear of walking out of their home,” she said.
The vigil ended with calls to action.
“It is not up to queer people alone to end the violence,” said Messer. “It’s up to all of us to make sure transgender-identified people know they are safe, respected and valued in our community.”
Bishop Tonyia Rawls of Unity Fellowship Church Charlotte issued a similar call.
“I pray you continue to remember the lives who have passed and those affected by their passing,” Rawls said in her closing remarks and prayer. “In this circle, we lift up life tonight and we will do all the intentional work to ensure it.”
To learn more about Transgender Day of Remembrance, visit transgenderdor.org.