Nov. 20 marks the 23rd annual Trans Day of Remembrance (TDoR). It began in 1999 as a way to mourn Rita Hester, a Black trans woman who was killed in 1998, and has since grown to become a day when the LGBTQ2S+ community remembers all victims of anti-trans violence.
It comes at the end of Transgender Awareness Week, a week dedicated to raising awareness about the trans and non-binary community and the challenges it faces. Trans Awareness Week has been formally recognized in various ways, including flag-raisings in Prince Edward Island and a statement from the Canadian Armed Forces.
The Transgender Expressions Haven (the Haven), a trans art collective and gallery in Vancouver, is organizing a remembrance ceremony at the Xʷc̓ic̓əsəm Garden at UBC Farm on Nov. 18.
Between noon and 3pm, Eduardo Jovel (Itz Cohuatl), director of the Indigenous Research Partnerships with the faculty of land and food systems at UBC, will facilitate a sacred fire. Trans, Two-Spirit, and gender non-conforming folks and their allies are invited to come together to share poetry, build an altar space together, and work on a mural.
Angelic Goldsky, co-founder of the Haven, says it’s important to have a space for TDoR to recognize the people who have been lost.
“There’s something to be said about remembering the lives that we do have names for and we do have the pictures of, and also [that there are] the people who were erased from history,” they say.
“A day is not enough and three hours is not enough, but it is a moment to really just feel those feelings of that loss and to be witnessed in that.”
Transphobic violence and anti-trans hate continues to be a problem in Canada. Although reported homicides are rare, living in fear of anti-trans violence is traumatizing—and trans folks are often acutely aware of anti-trans violence happening in other countries.
Kay Sargeant, a poet, comedian, and “professional trans person,” says that TDoR is a reminder that there is more work left to be done.
“It’s become a day to commemorate the reality of trans lives, and especially trans lives of colour,” she says. “Having to deal with these things [violence], it’s not something that we’ve gotten past. There’s Pride, and there’s Trans Day of Visibility, but we still have to deal with death.”
Last year, the Haven did a similar event. Sargeant, meanwhile, was organizing events at UBC as the only openly trans person at the Sauder School of Business.
“I didn’t even realize how much it was burning me out, and how much emotional labour it was until it exploded,” she says. “It’s a day of mourning. Recognizing that, even if you don’t feel the personal connection, even if you don’t know anybody personally that has passed … there’s this community familiarity.”
Surrey Dyke March, which formed earlier this year, will also be holding an informal event for TDoR. There will be a vigil at 7pm in Holland Park, providing space for people to hold candles, write down names to be remembered, or mourn however they wish. Organizers are also using it as an opportunity to collect warm clothes for people experiencing homelessness, or for people to bring gender affirming items to swap or donate.
“We wanted to be sure, in our first year of existing, that we created this space in [the] community that was as accessible as possible within our capacity,” a spokesperson said over email.
Transgender Expressions Haven will be gathering from noon to 3pm at Xʷc̓ic̓əsəm Garden at UBC Farm on Nov. 18. Surrey Dyke March will be gathering from 7pm at Holland Park in Surrey. All are welcome.
Nov. 11, 2.46pm: This story was updated to reflect events happening at UBC.