On Wednesday night, Slippery Rock University’s Pride Center hosted a vigil in memory of transgenders who had their lives cut short due to hatred and transphobia. This year marked the 20th anniversary of the first Transgender Day of Remembrance. The event was put on by the Assistant Director of the Women’s Center and Pride Center, Lyosha Gorshkov, and Erin O’Connor.
“Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance, every year it is on this day to pay recognition and remembrance to the trans lives’ that have been lost so far, due to transphobia and hatred,” O’Connor said. “There are currently 22 trans individuals that have been killed–predominantly trans women of color–so we as the pride center wanted to hold this again to bring awareness to the situation and also remember the lives that have been lost.”
Although it was a cold night, there were still many who came out to the vigil. Before the vigil, everyone was given a copy of the poem that was read and some were given a paper with the names of the victims from this past year and were asked to read off one name. Candles were also handed out to everyone who wanted one.
The Gorshkov started the vigil by informing those who came out what the vigil was all about and why it is important.
Gorshkov said to those in attendance, “by being here tonight, we are sending a clear, powerful message. We are showing that we are stronger than hate and we are stronger together.”
The poem read was called “A Litany of Remembrance” by Rabbi Sylvan Kamens and Rabbi Jack Riemer. After every instance presented, the phrase “we remember them” was stated. After the poem was read, there was a moment of silence taken.
“It kind of starts the conversation, it lets people know that this is a day because this is an issue,” O’Connor said. “We a lot of times think that LGBT is becoming a lot more common and we have a pride month and such, that there is greater acceptance than there actually is. There is still a lot of issues within our society of accepting trans individuals. Holding a vigil such as this really brings awareness and starts a conversation around this.”
The goal from the vigil is to spread awareness of the issue going on: the treatment of transgender people and the violence that takes place against the transgender community; and not to only address it in the United States, but throughout the entire world.
“By remembering the 22 symbolents that have perished in the face of pure evil, we are building a monument, which is taller than any empire state, because this is the tower of love, compassion and empathy,” said Gorshkov.
Along with the vigil, for a few weeks there was a display up in the Smith Student Center honoring transgenders who have suffered from the hate. The display featured the names and faces of the victims and also how they were killed. The hope was to have students see it and understand that this is an issue happening now and everywhere.
“To me, the significance of [Transgender day of Remembrance] is that we still have to have it, which sounds bad, but people recognize that this was an issue that so many trans-lives 20 years ago were being lost and wanted to make this day,” O’Connor said. “It hasn’t stopped, for 22 people to have lost their lives, just in 2019 in America. Recognizing that it’s 2019 and we still have to have this day, we have to continue pushing the conversation.”