The University of Colorado Boulder Pride Office and Out Boulder County, an organization that advocates and provides support for members of the LGBTQ+ community in Boulder County, provide different ways for community members to observe Transgender Day of Remembrance.
Out Boulder County will partner with the Office of Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) at CU Boulder to host a vigil on Sunday, Nov. 20.
Transgender Day of Remembrance was started in 1999 by transgender activist Gwendolyn Ann Smith as a vigil to honor the memory of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was killed in 1998.
Since then, the day has been observed annually to honor the memory of those who have lost their lives as a result of anti-transgender violence. Local LGBTQ organizations and advocates hold vigils, often reading the names of those lost that year.
“[It is] really important to take the time to really honor those lives, especially because a lot of those people aren’t in communication with family anymore, or may not have received the celebration of life that they deserved,” said Charlie Prohaska, the communications and trans programming coordinator for Out Boulder County. “This is a way that we make space to specifically honor each individual life every year.”
Out Boulder County has hosted an event for Transgender Day of Remembrance annually since 2014, according to Prohaska. This year’s event will include performances from several speakers and performers, followed by a naming ceremony, where a slideshow will display the names of those who have been killed this year.
Attendees will then have the opportunity to enjoy refreshments and meet others within the community. Prohaska said this provides an important balance.
“[We’re] giving the space to mourn and then afterward, have people be able to connect and talk with one another so that they’ve left the event being able to make connections and know that they have a community to support them,” Prohaska said.
JEDI partnered with Out Boulder County to provide an opportunity for university community members to participate in a vigil, as the university’s pride office decided not to host a public ceremony or vigil.
Morgan Seamont, the director of the Pride Office at CU Boulder, said they made the decision because the day can be traumatizing for those who identify as transgender.
“When you go through a Trans Day of Remembrance, you’re confronted again with just how violent society can be towards you,” he said. “Of course, we want to honor and respect those lives that were lost, but there are healthier ways for us to do it.”
Instead of having a vigil, the Pride office hosted Queer and TransGiving Day on Wednesday, Nov. 16, ahead of fall break. This event focused on providing students with techniques for resilience before leaving for the break.
“It’s our opportunity to come together as a family, perhaps a chosen family, because many of us don’t have supportive folks at home,” Seamont said.
Seamont also encouraged cisgender people to take a moment to recognize this day and reflect on what they can do to make their communities more inclusive and welcoming, whether that includes learning about pronouns or different issues facing the trans community.
“I think the focus should honestly be on how to become a better ally,” he said. “Yes, it’s nice if you honor those who were killed, but that doesn’t really do anything for the trans community.”
CU Boulder community members can still participate in the vigil hosted by JEDI and Out Boulder County this Sunday, Nov. 20, at 6:30 p.m.
“We don’t always see a huge population of the CU community at our events, so [the partnership] was a really neat way to kind of branch out and reach more of the community in Boulder county,” Prohaska said.
Contact CU Independent Breaking News Editor Celia Frazier at email@example.com.