The air became heavy, eyes began to water, and throats burned while promises of “we will remember” filled City Hall on Sunday night for every transgender person who died at the hands of hate.
“So often in death, we remember the trans people that died, but not what sustained them,” said UW student Yani Robinson at the Seattle Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) event.
This was the culmination of a string of events attended and curated by the UW’s Q Center — a student-run resource center for LGBTQIA+ people on campus — to recognize and participate in TDoR.
This year, over 300 people have died worldwide due to anti-trans violence. This information is based off the TDoR organization that puts on these events, which compiles a list of names every single year. They verify those who are put on the list through reputable media confirmation.
Trans people died at the hands of others for simply being who they are. It is TDoR tradition that their names be read off by volunteer attendees. Each name is accompanied by a brief description of who the person was, how they died, and their age. For each name, their photo shows up on a screen behind the attendee, if a photo could be located. The pictures make an otherwise distant death feel close, humanized, and painful.
“The toughest part of my job is to decide what we don’t read,” said Melissa Batson, the lead organizer that evening. She first explained how reading off all of this year’s 300 names would be an impossible feat for one night.
Many of the names listed Sunday night belonged to people in Brazil. Most of the deaths were brutal, with cause of death spanning from numerous stab wounds to being beaten by police or being run over by a car.
TDoR Seattle had a moment that focused on the Orlando, Fla., shooting at the Pulse Nightclub, naming those who died at the shooter’s hands.
“They were happy people, not victims,” Batson said, noting that Thanksgiving is coming. “There will be 49 tables that will have 49 empty chairs around there.”
TDoR is an annual event and an organization. The group’s catalogue of trans deaths goes as far back as the late 1970s. This year, events were held in nine different countries. In the United States alone TDoR was held at over 100 different locations.
One such event was gender diversity training put on by Gender Diversity, an organization trying to bring awareness and understanding about gender expression and identity.
“Unfortunately, [TDoR] is totally necessary,” trainer Gil Rich said. “But we just don’t want that to be the only message … especially for parents who are raising youth.”
Rich explained that constant messages and images of negativity and violence tend to make parents more scared for their children if their child comes out. This fear can sometimes manifest as being unaccepting to youth.
“We want to make sure that’s coupled with some positive things,” Rich said. “There’s people who are happy, raised kids, have partners, and are in the community just like everyone else.”
On the day of the training however, there were only six people in attendance. Rich attributed this to perhaps the location of Seattle, where he said people tend to be more fluent on the matter. Regardless, Rich said he’s happy if just two people show up, because maybe those two people are the ones who needed information.
Typically, the diversity training is taught from a perspective of youth.
“It makes it easier to build foundational pieces to then layer on more complex ideas,” Rich said, noting everyone was young once.
Gender Diversity teaches to a broad array of audiences, from insurance companies and medical staff to corporations and schools.
Rich explained how cultural responses to someone’s expression of identity and gender can have negative or positive effects, depending on said response.
“Studies show that when you support the person, they start to thrive,” Rich said. “When you don’t, and deny their identity, you start to see negative repercussions.”
The training goes over basic concepts of anatomy first: There are people with more than just two chromosome patterns. In addition, there’s intersex conditions that manifest physiologically (externally or internally) and chemically.
“Anatomy actually exists on a spectrum, and the prevalence of that isn’t as rare as we think,” Rich said, explaining that people with more than two chromosomes occur more often than twins.
The training then delves into gender expression, or how people choose to portray (or not portray) what they identify as. Then the topic of gender identity is discussed, which Rich defines as “your internal sense of self.”
Rich applauded the UW Q Center for seeking out gender diversity training, saying inclusivity and education are important.
“We will remember,” echoed the crowd.
- The Q Center is in HUB 315
- Gender Diversity holds weekly support groups at Seattle Children’s Hospital (which can be found under the “support services” tab on their website).
- American Civil Liberty Union’s Guide for Transgender and Gender Noncomforming Students
- The Ingersoll Gender Center in Seattle — (206) 323-1768