Once a year, transgender people and their supporters come together to memorialize everyone who has been killed in transphobic violence.
On Tuesday (November 20), the name of January Marie Lapuz, who was stabbed to death in New Westminster in September, will be one of dozens read out at Transgender Day of Remembrance events around the world.
In Vancouver, a candlelight vigil at the Carnegie Community Centre will mark the Day of Remembrance. The event on the third floor will begin at 7 p.m.
“We’ll be memorializing people in the trans community who have been murdered due to their perceived or real gender nonconforming visibility,” Tami Starlight, executive director of the Vancouver Transgender Day of Remembrance Society, told the Georgia Straight by phone. “This is a time to solemnly acknowledge the anti-trans violence that exists in the world, whether it’s locally or internationally, and that will give voice to those who have been silenced.”
According to Starlight, Vancouver was the first city in Canada to hold a Day of Remembrance event, and next week will mark the local vigil’s 11th year. The transgender rights activist noted each event “profoundly impacts” those who attend.
“I think it furthers people’s resolve on trans rights, generally speaking,” Starlight said today (November 16).
The Vancouver Transgender Day of Remembrance Society had been involved in planning a Day of Remembrance event for the University of British Columbia’s Point Grey campus. But Starlight said her group has pulled out due to “organizational and political differences”.
Presented by Pride UBC and the Sexual Assault Support Centre, the UBC event is scheduled to take place on Tuesday at the art gallery in the Student Union Building. Featuring guest speakers, a documentary on the Day of Remembrance, an open mic, the reading of names, and the lighting of candles, the event is slated to start at 5:30 p.m.
Starlight asserted that the UBC event wasn’t being organized “collaboratively and respectfully” and was in danger of becoming a “pulpit” for professors or aspiring politicians. The activist noted she usually makes it clear that everyone is welcome to attend a Day of Remembrance vigil, but that it’s not the place for speech-making.
“It becomes about these other people,” Starlight said. “It becomes about other people than actually about the people who are murdered. Because we are memorializing people, right? We are memorializing trans people who were brutally murdered.”
The Straight left interview requests for Pride UBC today by email and voicemail.
This evening, Qmunity, a queer resource centre in Vancouver, is hosting a workshop in honour of the Day of Remembrance as part of its weekly Gab Youth drop-in at the Coal Harbour Community Centre. Starting at 7 p.m., the YouthCO theatre troupe workshop will explore gender identity and gender expression.
“We wanted to hold an event as part of our regularly scheduled programming in honour of Trans Day of Remembrance and to provide our youth with a forum to explore some of the issues that Trans Day of Remembrance raises within our group...and also to honour our trans-identified youth as well,” Lau Mehes, a Gab Youth worker at Qmunity, told the Straight by phone this afternoon.
After Tuesday's event at the Carnegie Community Centre wraps up, Starlight plans to discuss the future of the Day of Remembrance in Vancouver with those willing to stick around. She’s hoping more community members will get involved and help organize future years’ vigils.
“I know our community’s really fractured, and people aren’t really engaged at all,” Starlight said. “It’s always about the government doing things for us or to us. So I’d like our community to come together in a meaningful way and a sustained way. That’s my hope, anyway.”