Under Sunday evening’s light drizzle, about 40 people gathered in downtown Santa Barbara at the Sunken Gardens to commemorate the Transgender Day of Remembrance. Community members held tea lights and stood in a circle as speakers discussed the dangers of anti-transgender violence.
As has become tradition at the internationally celebrated day of remembrance, volunteers read the names of victims of trans violence from the previous year. Although some were identified by full name, many more were not, shedding light on the deafening silence surrounding transphobia-motivated brutality. One man burned sage as he read a portion of the list of names, his voice echoing against the stone archway of the courthouse.
“I never forget that there’s danger and risk to be alive, to just be who we are,” said Lisa Gilinger at the start of the evening. Gilinger, a Santa Barbara-based attorney, helped organize the event with the Santa Barbara Equality Project, an arm of Pacific Pride Foundation.
Meredith Munn — the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender advocacy coordinator for Equality Project — described the yearly event as a means to increase public awareness of hate crimes against transgendered people. Although Munn said she hopes to eventually organize a call to action against transphobia, she also said it is important to keep “activism separate from remembrance.”
Although the day of remembrance always is a somber event, there was an added sense of urgency in light of last Thursday’s shooting death of a transgender woman in Hollywood. Furthermore, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality released a report in February 2011 documenting transgender discrimination. It is the first study of its kind, and as such, it provides vital statistical data about the transgender experience and transphobia-motivated violence.
The Transgender Day of Remembrance, which started in 1998 to memorialize the still-unsolved murder of a Massachusetts trans woman, is marked around the world with candlelight vigils and the reading of victims’ names. Sunday was the fourth official gathering in Santa Barbara, although community members have been commemorating the day unofficially for eight years.