Penn’s LGBT Center organized a vigil for the national Transgender Day of Remembrance to honor the transgender community and transgender lives that were lost due to targeted violence.
On Nov. 20 at 4 p.m., approximately 20 students and community members gathered in the Arts Research and Culture House lobby to recognize TDOR. A sign at the vigil displayed the names of 395 affected transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming individuals, 62 of whom came from the United States.
“Targeted violence, while happening across the world, is also happening here in the Philadelphia community, and so I think it's really important for the Penn community — for Penn students and staff and faculty and everybody involved — to know that this is also an issue,” LGBT Center Associate Director Jake Muscato said.
According to the LGBT Center, TDOR serves as a day for individual memorialization as well as an opportunity to reflect on the disproportionate impacts of transphobia. Muscato led a moment of silence to reflect on the lives lost due to violence, transphobia, and discrimination.
“We hope that together we can uplift the memory of the community members that we've lost,” Muscato said during the vigil.
During the vigil, Muscato invited attendees to reflect on the impacts of transphobia and challenged them to consider how they can use their voice to battle transphobia and gendered norms and expectations that exist within society. He listed some examples, including education on what it means to be a part of the transgender community, having conversations with loved ones, offering financial support, and voting.
While Penn has many spaces that help them feel "very celebrated and appreciated," College sophomore Haydr Dutta, who helped the LGBT Center organize the vigil, said they have still experienced times when their identity was not fully acknowledged.
“I think people lack the knowledge about the community or how to approach and interact with people from the community,” Dutta said. “I have faced many instances of misgendering where people just do not understand what being nonbinary really means, and maybe even invalidate that identity even in spaces people would assume would be pretty accommodating."
Jenavive Banes, an online learning support specialist with Penn's Courseware Support team who attended the vigil, wrote in a statement to The Daily Pennsylvanian that the vigil was an important way to concretely understand the lives lost in the transgender community.
"Instead of understanding in some vague way that trans and gender variant people die needlessly because the systems most people live their lives within are designed by and for cisgender white people to the detriment of all others, I can come to the vigil and get specific; I can read the names of my dead peers; I can connect with living peers in my community,” Banes wrote.
The LGBT Center is organizing a family dinner on Nov. 29 to close off Transgender Awareness Month, Malik Muhammad, the Director of Inclusion Initiatives and Social Justice Education in Penn's University Life division, told the DP.
“I think part of the reason that our Center exists is to continue working towards creating a more inclusive campus,” Muscato said. “There are always ways we can do better as a world and as an institution. I think that we're definitely on our way to that, but it takes all of us."