Remembering The Forgotten

Photo by Dana Schmerzler.
Photo by Dana Schmerzler.
Photo by Dana Schmerzler.

Nearly 40 people stood in a circle outside the Student Union (SU) on Wednesday, Nov. 20, each holding a candle. Facing the cold evening air, participants stayed to demonstrate their support of a worldwide event that honors the victims of violence against transgender people; an effort to pay tribute and remember those who have been victims of violence against those in the community.

The vigil was held by the Queer Student Union (QSU), a student-run organization that aims to bring queer people together, create a supportive environment and work together towards a positive change in the larger community, QSU E-board member Kal Williams, a third-year linguistics major, said.

Many of these victims who died as a result of prejudice violence lost their dignity with their death, with their names erased or ignored, dehumanizing them and removing their identity, Williams said. Holding the vigil and reading the names of these sometimes faceless victims was an effort to counteract this.

The vigil was also a way to show solidarity with the larger community. Williams said it strengthens the community and brings about awareness to the issue of anti-trans violence.

“[This vigil is necessary] so that people recognize the importance of acknowledging and supporting transgender individuals,” Williams said.

While the vigil focused on those who lost their lives due to discrimination, people in the transgender community face that same discrimination, marginalization, invalidation and prejudice in daily life, Williams said.

“All of the trans people I have spoken to about these issues have been deeply affected by the prevalent hatred around us,” he said. “What trans people go through is an intense mixture of invalidating attitudes and discriminatory behaviors from others. We go through this on a daily basis, and it can make the world very hostile.”

According to “Injustice at every turn: A Report on the National Transgender Discrimination Survey” by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, 78 percent of transgendered Americans faced severe harassment during childhood.

“We should use the vigil to not only honor those who aren’t with us anymore but, to take it as a lesson to create a safe space for Trans people in our community,” Zach Rousseas, a QSU E-board member and a double major in Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies and history said.

Rousseas said that discourse on the subject is crucial.

“There’s really no space for ‘Trans’ people to even be thought about, so it’s important to let cisgender people know that violence like that exists,” he said.