A candlelit vigil on Sunday evening, November 20, 2022 - led by Shana Begum (online from Cardiff) and Rev Kate Dean in Rosslyn Hill Chapel - marked a sombre and important moment.
We were together (in person and virtually) to honour the lives of trans and gender diverse people whose lives have been lost over the past year.
This Day of Remembrance was conceived in 1999 by a small group in memory of a trans gender woman, Rita Hester, who was murdered in Allston, Massachussetts. By 2010 this Day of Remembrance was observed in 185 cities in more than 20 countries.
Shana’s opening words set the scene:
“On this Transgender Day of Remembrance, we remember those who have been murdered for being who they are, those who face violence on a daily basis, those who have lost loved ones, and those who worry for loved ones.
“May we come to a time when we cease to shame children around gender roles and expression, where we allow for freedom and exploration of identity and expression, and to a world that operates from love, especially when things are difficult and confusing. May all of us who live with the threat of violence find support, strength, community, hope and safety.”
Then, alarming statistics spoke of immense hidden suffering…
From January 2008 to November 2022 there have been 4,369 registered deaths of trans and gender-diverse people around the world. In the past year there were 327 reported deaths:
65% of those whose race was reported were black or brown
95% of those killed globally were trans women
36% of those killed in Europe were migrants…
There were readings sharing the experiences of trans folk and suggestions of how to be a better ‘trans ally’ (see below).
The vigil continued with the Roll Call of Names when members of our Chapel community and an LGBT officer from the Met Police’s Safer Neighbourhoods Team slowly read the names of those who had died over the past year.
A candle was lit after every eleven names.
This moving ceremony reminded us all that there is still a lot of work to do to change attitudes around sexuality and gender so that everyone is able to live their lives without the fear of violence.
You can hear Rev Kate Dean speak about how important it was for her to mark the Transgender Day of Remembrance. This year it fell on Mitzvah Day and she regarded this as a ‘mitzvah’ - a kind deed in service to the local LGBT+ community. Watch now.
HOW TO BE A TRANS ALLY
For all of us moved to think more deeply about the lives of our trans and gender diverse siblings, we were offered some guidance on how to be a trans ally - below.
Being an ally to the trans community is easy; there are many ways to show support and all of them involve listening and respecting trans people’s identities (although it is also important to remember that trans people do not exist to educate everyone they meet).
Here are some of the ways we can be a trans ally:
Create a habit of sharing your name and pronouns. This helps create a safer environment for a trans person also to share their name and pronouns without worry of transphobia. For example: “I’m Shana, she/her”.
You could also display your pronouns on social media or at the bottom of your emails.
Don’t assume anyone’s pronouns. It’s far more inclusive to ask first and it gives trans people the opportunity to share their pronoun. If you aren’t sure and cannot ask someone’s pronouns, using gender-neutral pronouns such as they/them is a great alternative. It’s OK if you do get someone’s pronouns wrong; the best response is to apologise and correct yourself before carrying on.
Call out transphobia when you see it, if it is safe to do so, and report it wherever possible. Ignoring transphobia only helps to encourage it and what might start off as simple name-calling can quickly escalate.
Respect trans people’s boundaries. Do not ask personal or invasive questions about their life. If you want to learn more about trans people and the trans community, there are plenty of resources online, such as Stonewall.
And finally, support trans charities and events focused on raising awareness for trans people and fight against misconceptions about the trans community.