Across the nation and the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the international Trans Day of Remembrance (TDOR) was observed yesterday, November 20. One of the highly visible TDOR vigils took place on the steps of the Pennsylvania Capitol building. Trans activists and allies from across the state gathered for a ceremony honoring the fifteen known trans individuals who were murdered in the country this year as the result of hate crimes, including Philadelphian Kyra Cordova. The event was organized by TransCentral PA and included several speakers from Pennsylvania LGBTQ organizations, beginning with the president of TransCentral PA, Jeanine Ruhsam. The second part of the ceremony was a candle-lit vigil, in which volunteers read the murder victim’s stories as if they were one of the fifteen transgender individuals who were murdered this year (see photo).
Multiple events took place across the state. Two vigils were held in Philadelphia, at Drexel University and the William Way Community Center. The Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Pittsburgh also held a ceremony. Each year more vigils are held in Pennsylvania, more visibility is raised, but the violence continues, and noticeably, becomes more pervasive.
Progress continues to be made within the federal government on transgender issues. Yesterday for TDOR, the White House hosted over twenty-five national transgender community leaders from across the country met with White House staff for the first time to discuss equal rights and violence against trans people. Those in attendance included Pennsylvanian and NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling, the Trevor Project’s Government Affairs Director Alison Gill, and John Berry, the Director of the Federal Office of Personnel Management. In September of this year, the DC Trans Coalition along with Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence submitted a statement on transgender issues to a US Senate hearing on hate crimes. The trans leader gathering yesterday by the White House of is a huge step forward in the visibility of the trans community within the federal government, as well as a hopeful sign for continued efforts to advance legal protections and equal rights for trans Americans.
While great strides are being made for the trans community, in the days following TDOR we continue to see such great physical violence against trans individuals, especially against trans women of color. NCTE and NGLTF’s Injustice at Every Turn survey found extraordinary disparities in healthcare, discrimination, poverty, homelessness, and basic safety compared to cis-gendered people.