Students gather to commemorate those killed as a result of transphobic violence and hate.
On Monday evening, a group of people (many drenched, some holding lanterns) filled the foyer of the University’s Union to take part in a minute’s silence to remember all of the trans people who have died – often unremarked by the wider community – as a result of transphobia, and to bring attention to the ongoing and largely undiscussed violence perpetrated against the trans community.
A statement on the Facebook page for the event highlighted how, even as we view our society as continually progressing and taking ever more steps toward equality and acceptance for all, this belief is in danger of masking the reality of those who continue to face extreme prejudice:
“2016 has been the deadliest year on record for trans people. When trans people, and especially trans women of colour, are killed just for existing – it is clear something needs to change.”
It is estimated that every three days, somewhere in the world, another transgender person is killed.
The statement went on: “We are taking this opportunity to remember all those who have been unlawfully killed this year. We will remember the countless young trans people who have died from suicide. We will stand in solidarity with the 48% of young trans people who have attempted suicide. We will stand together to condemn violence against trans people.”
Students entering the Union building to escape Monday’s downpour stopped to listen as Jamie Fletcher, an LGBTQ+ activist and theatre and film director, led a prayer before the minute’s silence took place.
In it, she hoped that those who had died or suffered because of their trans identity would be “fully accepted as whole people of worth, of talent, of wit and integrity.” She wished for our “society [to] grow greatly and rapidly in understanding so that in future the diversity of human life can be truly appreciated and celebrated.”
Afterwards, people were invited to join a discussion in the Union. It was followed by a trans only film screening, along with badge making and cake.
Those in attendance formed a small part of thousands of people who come together for International Transgender Day of Remembrance each year. The event began in 1988 following the murder of transgender woman Rita Hester, whose death sparked a candle light vigil in San Franciso and a web based remembrance project. Now, the international day of action spans 185 cities across the world, and continues to grow. Trans activism in Leeds has typically centred around the University, but this year a vigil was also held in Sovereign Square. The increasing participation marks a positive shift towards better awareness, recognition and acceptance.