In the twilight hour on November 20, a group of about 75 people gathered with candles on the steps of City Hall to commemorate Transgender Day of Remembrance. The annual worldwide event comes as advocates here in the US note that at least 23 transgender people across the nation, most of them trans women of color, have been murdered this year.
Transgender men and women and their allies spoke to the variety of meanings that the day has for them.
Mel Wymore, a transgender man who is a longtime Upper West Side community board member, opened the event by saying of the gathering, “This is more important than you can imagine.”
Though sponsored by the LGBT Caucus in the City Council, the event was organized and produced by a variety of transgender leaders across the city.
Kiara St. James said that in addition to remembering those lost to violence, it was important to focus on the need for investment in the community and for transgender people and their allies to avoid working in “silos” that separate like-minded people.
“To make the most impact as a community, we have to work together,” St. James said.
Adrienne, a nurse who chose not to mention her last name, talked about her fear of being outed on her job, where she said she would then have to put up with “misgendering” from co-workers unaccepting of transgender people.
Ashley Love emphasized that even though some Transgender Day of Remembrance commemorations also focus on suicides in the community, “Most did not commit suicide. They were killed.” She added, “We are honoring transgender women killed due to male brutality.”
Noting that community leaders are in agreement that a unitary commemoration at City Hall organized by transgender people is the appropriate way to mark the day, Love said, “Don’t allow this day to be co-opted.
Nicole Bowles chose to focus on the strengths of individuals within the trans community.
“Let’s shed some light on those of us who are alive,” she said. “Everyone must take their power and throw it into the community.”
At the end of the roughly 45-minute vigil, Josephine Perez spoke passionately about the need for the community to support those with developmental disabilities.
A particularly poignant moment in the commemoration came when Delores Nettles, whose transgender daughter Islan Nettles was murdered in Harlem more than two years ago, was recognized and also given a proclamation in her daughter’s memory by City Councilmembers Carlos Menchaca and Corey Johnson, two out gay men who identified themselves as trans allies.
Nettles, clearly emotional as she spoke, said the trial of her daughter’s accused killer, James Dixon, is due to open on January 11 in Manhattan. She and other speakers urged people to turn out at 100 Centre Street, 11th floor, part 72 to show solidarity with Delores and other family and friends of Islan Nettles.