Students dressed in black gathered in the Stevenson Union Courtyard on Wednesday afternoon to observe the Transgender Day of Remembrance and commemorate those who have lost their lives within the last year as a result of discriminatory violence.
The Queer Resource Center organized the event for SOU this year, beginning around 12:30 p.m. by reading the names and causes of death of reported deceased victims from between November 19, 2012 and November 20, 2013. The number of names read was not entirely reflective of actual deaths within that period, however, because many tend to go unreported. The perpetrators of these crimes therefore often go unpunished.
By standing outside of the SU at lunchtime, the group hoped to catch more students’ attention and direct them towards the somber observations.
Janelle Wilson, coordinator for the QRC, described it as an “unavoidable depiction of information that is ordinarily hidden. “ One particularly concerning yet often overlooked fact is the high rate of violence toward transgender people of color.
“Having that visibility on our chest—that’s how information comes out,” said Adam Railsback, staff member at the QRC.
“I hope that people will take pause and remember them and consider how they treat other people for being exactly who they are,” said Wilson. She stresses that this is not an issue that should be ignored, as it affects an entire community of people.
Those participating in the event also stood in the cold and rain for forty-five minutes, holding signs to commemorate those who had passed away or display information about transgender violence.
One such sign was the one held by Railsback that read “Twenty-three is not an acceptable life expectancy.” The average life expectancy for a transgender individual is only twenty-three years of age.
“It’s horrid,” said Railsback. “That’s all that can be said. No words.”
In addition to those standing witness, the QRC had a table inside of the SU with people ready to present information and answer questions of those who would be passing by. There was also a luncheon and discussion specifically for faculty and staff on how to best support the transgender students on campus. Wilson said this dialogue was to be the first of many.
“Today I think we definitely impacted a lot of people and at the same time there’s always more that can be done,” said Railsback.
Railsback described being able to hear other students crying as the group stood in silence. As the group broke up towards 1:30 p.m., many were seen giving hugs to one another and lending support after the emotional affair.
“For me at least, it’s a very sentimental thing,” said Railsback. “It’s about experiencing that loss.”