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Today marks 15th anniversary of Transgender Day of Remembrance

Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR), a somber occasion to remember each and every transgender person who has lost their life to violence because of who they were.

In San Diego and around the globe, vigils, marches and other remembrance events have been organized for today to give community members the opportunity to reflect on the effects of transphobia.

TDOR was started in 1999 by Gwendolyn Ann Smith as a vigil to honor the memory of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was killed in 1998. The vigil commemorated all the transgender people lost to violence that year and began an important memorial that has become the annual TDOR.

Smith says this about the day:

"The Transgender Day of Remembrance seeks to highlight the losses we face due to anti-transgender bigotry and violence. I am no stranger to the need to fight for our rights, and the right to simply exist is first and foremost. With so many seeking to erase transgender people -- sometimes in the most brutal ways possible -- it is vitally important that those we lose are remembered, and that we continue to fight for justice."

According to GLAAD, 238 transgender people have been killed worldwide this year, with 15 of them in the United States. The list of deaths is overwhelmingly comprised of Black transwomen.

Here, GLAAD provides a tribute to the 15 transgender individuals in the United States who lost their lives this year.

"Each one of the people listed has a story, which was tragically cut short," said Tiq Milan, senior media strategist at GLAAD. "We owe it to these victims to work to end anti-trans violence and ensure their stories continue in a fair way that honors each one of them."

15 years of TDOR

This year's TDOR marks the 15th anniversary of the annual remembrance. Since the murder of Rita Hester in 1998, which was the death that sparked the first TDOR, Smith notes that hundreds of other trans people have been victims of violence and murder.

Smith wrote a touching essay for SDGLN content partner HuffPost Gay Voices, reflecting on the 15 years that have passed since Hester's murder.

This month is the 15th anniversary of the death of Rita Hester, a young transgender woman of color who was murdered in her apartment in Allston, Mass. It was her death that led to the creation of the Transgender Day of Remembrance, which is held each year on Nov. 20.

Since Rita Hester's murder, hundreds of others have been murdered. This year more than 200 people have died at the hand of anti-transgender violence. Every two weeks, on average, someone is murdered in the United States in an act of anti-transgender violence. Internationally, you see these murders happening as a near-daily occurrence.

You'll note, I'm sure, that I talk of anti-transgender violence, and I want to tell you why I make this distinction. These are not simply the deaths of transgender men and women, and it is not their own identities as transgender men or women that led to their deaths. Rather, it is their killers who determined their gender identity and took the lives of transgender people because the killers felt that transgender people are somehow lacking.

Anyone can potentially fall victim to anti-transgender violence. Transgender-identified people and others whose gender identity or expression does not fit the typical binary are who you may think of first, but anyone who is perceived as not being "masculine" or "feminine" enough for their attackers is at risk.

Cases of anti-transgender violence have affected people of all ages, from newborn to elderly, and go across all sexual identities, races, and socioeconomic backgrounds. There's no "magical" way to be protected from anti-transgender violence.

This said, I want you to understand that after 15 years -- and with cases dating back 30 years before that -- one can start to see that some groups are at a higher risk than others. In the United States of America, for example, most cases of anti-transgender violence leading to murder are perpetrated against young transgender woman of color like Rita Hester.

The Transgender Day of Remembrance is a day of solemnity. It is a day where we remember those we have lost, when we mourn, and when we consider that we live in a world where we or our friends could very well be next on the list. We know that we live in a time when the right to live our genuine lives without fear of murder is far from guaranteed. Our world is still a violent one, and we still have a very long way to go to see anti-transgender violence and prejudice wiped out.

This year, amongst so many others we may never know the names of:

We remember Evon Young, killed in Milwaukee, Wis., on Jan. 1.

We remember Cemia "CeCe" Dove, killed in Cleveland, Ohio, on March 27.

We remember Fatima Woods, killed in Rochester, N.Y., on May 30.

We remember Kelly Young, killed in Baltimore, Md., on April 3.

We remember Valarie McKinney, killed in Shreveport, La., on July 12.

We remember Diamond Williams, killed in Philadelphia, Pa., on July 14.

We remember Islan Nettles, killed in Harlem, Manhattan, New York City, N.Y. on Aug. 17.

We remember Domonique Newburn, killed in Fontana, Calif., on Aug. 20.

We remember Artegus Konyale Madden, killed in Savannah, Texas, on Sept. 1.

We remember Terry Golston, killed in Shreveport, La., on Sept. 6.

We remember Melony Smith, killed in Baldwin Park, Calif., on Sept. 9.

We remember Eyricka Morgan, killed in New Brunswick, N.J. on Sept. 24.

We remember Amari White, killed in Richmond, Va., on Nov. 9.

We remember scores more around the world who have been killed due to anti-transgender violence.

Over the last handful of years, attacks have intensified as groups attempt to fight against equality for trans people in the wake of their largely failed war against same-gender marriage. The battle against trans people is rearing its head in California, as several of the same groups who defended Proposition 8 now try to repeal A.B. 1266 and its protections of transgender students.

As they attack us and our ability to live, and as they mislead people about who we are, it is all the more likely that we shall see anti-transgender attacks increase. This too is why we gather for the Transgender Day of Remembrance: It is a reminder that we have to continue to fight, to struggle, and to survive.

On Transgender Day of Remembrance, we honor those we've lost -- and we continue to fight for all.

Speaking out for TDOR

Several community leaders and others have spoken out in support of Transgender Day or Remembrance.

Dr. Kortney Ziegler of the Transgender Law Center:

I do not need to stress the importance of Transgender Day of Remembrance as a viable act of visibility and resistance. However, it is not enough for us to simply mourn these victims-we have to take necessary steps to destroy the racist institutional barriers that perpetuate their deaths. This means not leaving the burden of responsibility to communities of color. Instead, predominantly white led transgender advocacy organizations, which undoubtedly have the greatest access to resources financial and otherwise, must begin to seriously consider the lives of the most vulnerable members of our community by developing and enforcing policy that takes an intersectional approach to the identities of trans women of color. Every year, the list of names are led mostly by African-American women and women in Brazil and Mexico. We as a community must take note of the marginalized communities and ask ourselves what we're doing to stop these communities from being targets of hate. The Transgender Day of Remembrance reminds me every year about the lack of services targeting these at risk transgender individuals"

Wilson Cruz of GLAAD:

"Every November 20, transgender people and their allies come together for Transgender Day of Remembrance, an observance that honors the memory of the transgender people lost to hate and violence during the past year. In 2012, 53% of anti-LGBT homicide victims were transgender women. The majority were transgender women of color. Gwendolyn Ann Smith, founder of the Transgender Day of Remembrance, said of the day, 'With so many seeking to erase transgender people - sometimes in the most brutal ways possible - it is vitally important that those we lose are remembered and that we continue to fight for justice.' As an ally to the transgender community, I agree, and GLAAD agrees as well."

Chad Griffin of the Human Rights Campaign:

"Today as we remember our transgender brothers and sisters lost to archaic hate and senseless violence, we stand together as one LGBT community. We will always keep the victims of anti-transgender violence front of mind as we continue the fight for full equality."

Secretary of State John Kerry:

"The State Department joins people around the world in marking Transgender Day of Remembrance, honoring the memory of lives lost to violence provoked by fear and hatred of transgender and gender non-conforming people.

We have made tremendous progress in advancing the rights of LGBT persons. But when people continue to be harassed, arrested and even killed simply because of who they are and who they love, we know that we still have hard work before us.

The sad truth is that in too many places, including the United States, transgender persons continue to face violence and discrimination on a daily basis.
In too many cases, crimes against LGBT persons, including murder, are not thoroughly investigated or prosecuted. Transgender persons are frequently denied medical care and public services. They still suffer discrimination in employment, education, and housing.

Each of these episodes threatens our common humanity. Together, we pay a price when rights are trampled. And, together, we win when rights are protected.

That is why we are engaging diplomatically to address the specific challenges faced by transgender persons. And that’s why we will continue to urge other governments to protect all of their citizens regardless of their gender identity. Through the Global Equality Fund, we are increasing support to civil society organizations to combat bias-motivated violence targeting transgender persons.

The rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons are not special or separate or different. They are basic human rights. And human rights are universal, not negotiable.

On Transgender Day of Remembrance, we renew our commitment to ensuring that all persons are able to live safely, freely and with dignity, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity."

The White House also released a blog today, marking Transgender Day of Remembrance.

TDOR events

Today in San Diego, the Transgender Pride Flag was raised at half staff on the Hillcrest Pride Flag pole. The flag will fly all day in honor of TDOR.

Community members will gather today at 6 pm at the San Diego LGBT Community Center for a vigil, march and program to remember those whose lives have been due to anti-transgender violence.

The San Diego LGBT Community Center is located at 3909 Centre St. in Hillcrest.

In the North County area of the San Diego region, a vigil will be held in the parking lot of the North County LGBTQ Resource Center at 6 pm to commemorate and inform the community of the consequences of hate, transphobia and discrimination. Light refreshments will be provided.

The North County LGBTQ Resource Center is located at 510 North Coast Highway in Oceanside.

Both The San Diego LGBT Community Center and the North County LGBTQ Resource Center provide a number of resources for the transgender community.

Click HERE for information about the San Diego LGBT Community Center's resources. Click HERE for information about the North County LGBTQ Resource Center's resources.

For a list of TDOR events happening today around the country and the globe, click HERE.

Left photo

Gwendolyn Smith, founder of Transgender Day of Remembrance.