Just a week before students celebrate a day of thanksgiving and remembrance, the LGBT Center held the Transgender Day of Remembrance, where attendees wrote messages to members of the transgender community killed in the United States this year. The messages were burned in a fire as a symbol of sending love to the lives that were lost.
Penn commemorated the event four days earlier than it is usually celebrated, Nov. 20, with activities and a speech by Philadelphia artist and activist Hazel Edwards.
The event, which was co-sponsored by the LGBT Center and Counseling and Psychological Services, began at 5:30 p.m. with attendees pasting circles containing the biographical information of transgender people who had been killed this year on a bulletin board. Attendees also pasted messages of grief, colored in blue, and messages of celebration and hope, colored in yellow.
“Why is hate so strong?” read one message. “We Matter,” read another.
“It is quite an impact to look at a board and see all these people who were killed, violently, just for being who they are,” said LGBT Center Senior Associate Director Erin Cross.
This year, organizers also wanted to create a more visual display of remembrance in order to include more introverted members of the community, said CAPS Psychologist Matthew LeRoy.
Some attendees, however, felt that the event wound up being “too silent.”
After the last activity where messages to transgender people were burned, an attendee who asked to be attributed as Rachel said, “this does not feel like remembrance. It feels like trying to forget.”
Organizers responded by asking if attendees wanted to read out the names and details pasted on the board. By the time all the names of the transgender victims of violence had been read out, several guests were in tears.
“We have soft-spoken folks who aren’t always as enmeshed in the program, which was what we were thinking about this year,” Cross said, “But I think [Rachel’s] point was well-taken. And I’m so glad that she brought it up.”
LPS senior and Co-chair of Penn Non-Cis Amelia Sollitti agreed that the event was quieter than in previous years, though not any less emotional.
“There’s a huge problem of trans folk being murdered and it has a big impact on the community,” Sollitti said. This day “is important because it provides the time and space for communities to come together and collectively mourn.”
According to the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, 26 transgender people have been killed in the United States so far this year – the highest ever recorded so far. This number transgender people whose deaths were not reported due to misgendering.
That being said, the event made sure to emphasize that along with grief comes strength. In her closing remarks, guest speaker Hazel Edwards said that transgender people who were killed this year, including Crystal Edmonds “are still with us.”
Cross reiterated her message at the end of the event, saying, “They are still here. They still energize us to stand up for one another, especially in the climate of today.”
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