November 20th is Transgender Day of Remembrance. It’s important that we take this time to reflect on the experiences and needs of people who are transgender and gender non-conforming, and truly use that to fuel our ongoing understanding and resistance against transphobia.
Transgender Day of Remembrance serves as a reminder of the lives lost at the hands of transphobia, as well as the work that still needs to be done to protect the trans community. This observation began a year after the murder of Rita Hester in 1998, a transgender woman who was a known community educator around trans issues in Boston, Massachussets. She was attacked and killed in her own apartment as an act of anti-transgender violence, and the murderer was never found. Rita is just one example of the many victims of transphobia. Last year was recorded as the deadliest year for trans people yet, with at least 50 documented murders. That number is likely much higher, given that many cases go unreported as transphobic hate crimes. This year is looking at a similarly high number, as 31 cases have been reported so far.
These numbers specifically include those who have died as a direct result of physical violence. They do not include the many lives lost from suicide, an indirect result of the pervasive psycholocial violence against trans individuals. Studies have found that 22% - 43% of transgender adults have attempted suicide at least once. Transgender and non-binary youth are 2 - 2.5 times more likely to experience depressive symptoms, consider suicide, and attempt suicide than their cisgender peers. The discrimination, harrassment, and violence targeting the transgender community experience is undeniably a major factor for the mental health of trans folks.
It’s no surprise that these numbers are on the rise. The United States has had hundreds of anti-transgender bills introduced in the past two years, correlating with the increase of anti-transgender rhetoric that has become rampant in our society. In many states, the law also seeks to commit violence and remove protective factors for the trans community. This makes it especially important now for allies to seek information and education, and get involved in protecting the trans community.
If you are a cisgender ally to the transgender community, there are so many ways you can help, especially for this year’s Transgender Day of Remembrance. The most important thing you can do is stay educated and aware. Resources like The Trevor Project, GLAAD, and the Human Rights Campaign are a great place to start. If you’re able, donate to initiatives supporting the community or directly to members of the community themselves. Additionally, elections across all states are vital in determining who will hold the power to write and pass bills that could help or hurt trans and gender non-conforming people. Make sure to get educated on politicians’ stances on this issue, and vote in favor of protection for the community. If you know someone who is trans, gender non-conforming, or questioning their gender, pay attention to the news around these topics, and check in with them regularly and help them pursue mental health care if needed. Even when an anti-trans bill is introduced in just one state, the influence of it crosses state lines.
If you are trans, gender non-conforming, or questioning your gender, the most important thing you can do for your community is to take care of yourself. While using this day to remember those lost, also try to find the time to revel in stories of trans joy. If you are struggling, find support in your community and allies, and reach out to a mental health professional if you are able. If you need a free, 24/7 resource for a crisis or for general support, use this number to access Trans Lifeline: (877) 565-8860. Trans Lifeline is a national community care hotline run for and by trans people.
By: Mel Signore
Mental Health Counseling Intern