D.C. Marks Transgender Day of Remembrance

While honoring transgender victims of violence, local event finds some progress to celebrate

By John Riley
Published on November 21, 2013, 5:00pm | Comments

More than a hundred District activists, members of the LGBT community and others rallied at the Metropolitan Community Church of Washington, D.C., Wednesday night, Nov. 20, to mark the Transgender Day of Remembrance, an annual event honoring transgender victims of violence.

The internationally recognized day, started in 1998, is a rallying call to counter the transphobia that has led to such violence, often fatal. At Wednesday's event, while the Rev. Abena McCray poured water into a bowl, various people stood up and read aloud the names and short descriptions of deceased transgender people from around the world, including how they were killed.

While D.C. has not had any such deaths in 2013, other high-profile U.S. cases include the deaths of Kelly Young in Baltimore, Cemia ''CeCe'' Dove in Cleveland, and Islan Nettles in New York. Activists such as Nico Quintana, speaking for both the D.C. Trans Coalition and TransLAW, also reminded people of the physical violence and harassment facing many transgender people.

Mayor Vincent Gray, who has attended past Transgender Day of Remembrance events, made remarks at the service and presented organizers with an official proclamation. Noting, ''We have a long ways to go,'' Gray vowed to defend the safety and rights of the District's transgender community and celebrated some of the progress that has been made through legislation passed by the D.C. Council, through policy changes made by some of his political appointees, and through programs such as Project Empowerment.

''The Transgender Day of Remembrance really marks another year in the struggle to be able to protect the rights of people who are transgender in the District of Columbia,'' Gray said in his speech. ''Hopefully, we will institutionalize rights so firmly into the District of Columbia that even if we get somebody who wants to change it, we're not going to let that happen. Rights are going to be here for the future of the people in this room and across our entire city.''

Wednesday's event also included a segment for special recognition, recognizing the contributions of longtime area LGBT-rights and sexual-freedom activist Dan Massey, who died in January, and Allison Gardner, his surviving partner. Organizers also celebrated the passage of the JaParker Deoni Jones Birth Certificate Equality Amendment, which allows transgender people to obtain new birth certificates that reflect their appropriate gender and names; recognizing the families of Deoni Jones and Nana-Boo Mack, two transgender women who were killed in recent years; as well as the contributions made by the Metropolitan Police Department's Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit.