Monday night was the annual celebration of “The Transgender Day of Remembrance” in the Stevenson Union Diversions put on by the QRC to bring attention to Transgender representation in our society and to remember those who lost their lives. It is a day to not only “…mourn and honor the people who have passed, due to violence,” said Demitra Olague, the Educational Outreach Coordinator for the Queer Resource Center (QRC) at Southern Oregon University. It is also to “…celebrate the people who are still with us.” Olague and Katherine Blank coordinated the event.
The Transgender Day of Remembrance was created to “…bring the attention of [Transphobia] to the public and address how many people who have been impacted by it, continued to be impacted by this,” explained Olague.
The university has held this event for a few years with help from the QRC. Blank says that the event is “…honoring the people who deserve to be honored.” Chairs had to be added to the back of the rows in order to seat everyone in attendance– both members of the LGBTQ+ and allies.
Gwendolyn Ann Smith, a transgender woman, first created this day in 1999 to memorialize the murder her transgender friend, Rita Hester. At the time, there was a lack of representation of Transgender women, especially of color, within the public eye. Smith founded the day to shine a more positive light on the Transgender community. The presentation discussed the ways that, even in the present day, is little representation of anything but the Cisgender community.
Olague and Blank shared a PowerPoint at the event, detailing the history of Transgender rights in the society as well as honor the faces of the movement, both from the past and the present. It featured faces of the modern day transgender icons including Laverne Cox, a transgender woman of color and an activist for gender neutral bathrooms. As well as, Jen Richards, another transgender woman who addresses the need for representation in the media of the community. The presentation mostly focused on transgender women of color rather than transgender men; however, everyone mentioned were advocates for transgender rights and recognized as major parts of the movement.
The event concluded with a vigil service to remember victims. Each attendee was given a card with a deceased person. A moment of silence was held after all the names were read. An American Sign Language interpreter translated throughout the event.
Thomas Arce, the QRC coordinator explained that the day is created as a reminder of the intolerance that a community can have towards a certain population, and it is important to celebrate and “…acknowledge our trans and gender nonconforming students that we have at SOU and acknowledge the violence that they may have had in the past, but also a thinking about the violence that has happened to the community that they are a part of.”