Respect the Transgender Day of Remembrance

After years of disrespect, shoddy reporting and at times downright abusive coverage of trans issues, today, of all days, feels like a good day for the press – and the UK media in particular – to up its game. To note that this, the 20th November is a day when the world’s growing trans community stops for a moment to remember its dead.

Or failing that, to forego printing yet another piece that subtly mocks, either because we are such “funny creatures”, and therefore deserving of mockery – or worse, humiliates, embarrasses and sometimes endangers because those reporting trans stories just couldn’t care less. Its just another story and the fact that stories about trans men and women have led to violence, to murder are just unfortunate by-products of the way things are.

History of the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR)

Now in its 13th year, the TDOR was originally created in 1998 by Gwendolyn Ann Smith, a transgender graphic designer, columnist, and activist, to commemorate the murder of Rita Hester in Allston, Massachusetts.

In 2010, TDOR ceremonies of one form or another were held in almost 200 cities in 20 countries across the world. This is a time when the trans community comes together, in solemnity and in celebration, to remember its dead.

Trans crime statistics

Statistics compiled by Trans Murder Monitoring suggest that somehwere in the world, every 72 hours, a trans man or woman is murdered. The absolute numbers are small: but if any other group in society was being killed off at quite such a rate, there would be a global outcry.

Many of these killings are located in South America: but to attempt to use murder alone as a measure of trans abuse – to argue, as the Daily Express did, just one year ago, that because there had been no homophobic murders reported, this was a non-issue – is simply sick.

As anyone working closely with the UK trans community will know, for some, just surviving is an achievement. Last month alone delivered its quota of shocking stories: trans men and women attacked, hospitalised – or just too afraid to leave their house, as a result of bigotry.

As a result of bigotry in part inspired by the press.

The role of the Press

There is not enough time here to detail the extent of press culpability on this issue. One simple story should suffice. Early on 16 November, news agency Reuters circulated an outwardly respectful narrative, initially published “straight” (without picture). A little later in the day, however, it had gained a powerful and grainy image by way of illustration: a picture of a transgender prostitute working the streets of Tegucigalpa.

That really doesn’t help.

Even when they think they are being sympathetic, the press seem incapable of taking their collective heads out of the gutter.

Apology – and Petition

I won’t be in London to commemorate this year’s Transgender Day of Remembrance: bit of a cock-up on the child-minding front, and whilst i am happy to bring the boy along, i suspect he isn’t up to what he would see as a load of boring grown-up stuff.

But i will be there in spirit.

Meanwhile, therefore, I am putting up a petition to ask the press, today of all days, to respect the sensibilities of the trans community. In the UK, to ask especially those tabloids and mid-market papers that get so excited about groups disrespecting poppy day to demonstrate a similar degree of respect for today’s day of remembrance.

That is all.



7 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Liz Church said,

    Sorry Jane. As ever, want an address and postcode.

  2. 2

    paula madcat panther said,

    make one up 🙂 .. how about 68c geoffry rd, brockley, london.. se4 1nt ?

    I was one of those statistics last month, luckily it was a crowed station where the result has been two people (from 4) arrested charged and taken to court to be found guilty of “assault by beating”.. if it had been deserted (as many are in the North) the result could have been my name being on the rolls of remembrance.

  3. 3

    Petition signed, bringing it to 50 signatures already!

  4. 4

    Meggy said,

    All signed and passed along to my friends and partner. 🙂

  5. 5

    Today of all days, what have you got against sex workers? Most of the women on the TDOR list were sex workers – one a 14 year old girl. Many were shot at when standing in groups with other sex workers, cis and trans, and could well have been killed *because they were sex workers* rather than because they were trans. I hope the woman in the picture is alive and well but it would be disingenuous of any member of the trans community to suggest that she is not exactly the kind of woman who is most likely to end up on the TDOR list. According to recent US research ( 1 in 10 Latina trans women like her have been sexually assaulted by the police.

    Reuters seem to have done their research and read much from the Trans Murder Monitoring project website, enough to know where we are murdered and which of us are disproportionately at risk. I care much more about them choosing to give a woman’s previous name than about them illustrating an article about TDOR with exactly the kind of person TDOR is about.

    I’d rather we stood with our trans sisters (and brothers) who are sexworkers and work to make sex work less dangerous for all than we forsake their memory by feeling insulted by a picture that is a very accurate portrayal of many trans people’s lives. I truly fail to see how it is “disrespectful” to our dead to acknowledge the circumstances in which many of them were killed.

    • 6

      janefae said,

      I have absolutely nothing against sex workers and, if you read this blog regularly, you’ll be well aware of that.

      Mty issue is with the attempt to encapsulate the trans experience under one umbrella and, while i will happily defend the rights of sex workers, both against the state and vigilante groups, i personally doubt that the Reuters piece is doing anything quite as complex as you are suggesting.

      Today is a day to remember all our dead, Latin American and European: sex worker and otherwise.

      It is the attempt to reduce that remembrance to one simplified strand that i dislike, especially where the simplification works to play to the instincts of an audience that is already more than happy to dismiss our experience as “just one of those things”.


  6. 7

    I know that I’m coming a bit late to this thread but Liam it is very true that Jane is an active advocate of sex workers rights and as she says you should really have a read through her previous blogs.

    After attending TDoR in Birmingham for the last two years running I would like to share an observation. The vast and overwhelming number of people attending were sympathetic cis gendered folk. I am aware that the Birmingham vigil is a relatively small event but it, in simple terms, always amazes my that there seems to be that gobby and unpleasant majority of TV/CD/HPW’s along with the transsexual (not simply Trans) phobic GQ thugs who always seem to be noticeable by their absence. Maybe just a localised phenomenon but never the less reality.

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