Marking Transgender Day of Remembrance

The slew of anti-transgender attacks throughout 2023 — and before — brings about a renewed importance for Transgender Day of Remembrance.

Trans Day of Remembrance is our yearly reminder that our trans friends whom, through no fault of their own, were taken from this world by violence. It brings about a renewed call to fight against bigotry and to to remember those we’ve lost within their true identity: Not the one society constructed for them without their consent.

AIDS United is in a fight for an end to the HIV epidemic. This cannot be achieved until societal discrimination like transphobia are eliminated.

As we remember those lost to violence, we also remember that violence towards trans people cannot be limited to physical intimidation.

Right now, multiple state houses across the country have introduced or passed bills denying civil rights to trans people, a broader part of what is called “transgender erasure.”

Transgender erasure refers to the tendency or practice of ignoring, denying or minimizing the existence and experiences of trans people. This occurs in various cultural and societal practices, such as saying trans people did not exist until recently or complaining that trans people are too angry. It includes misgendering, lack of representation, exclusion from conversations and gender assumptions. It is ingrained in institutional practices as well, where gender identity is often binary and without options.

Trans erasure denies the reality of gender identity and further contributes to marginalization. It hurts real people who are trying to live their lives with dignity. Many trans people find themselves at the mercy of hostile governments, their livelihoods at risk with every change in the political winds.

Currently in the United States:

  • Certain states have laws that explicitly define “sex” throughout state law to allow discrimination against trans people.
  • There have been 18 bills introduced in 2023, five of them have passed.
  • Republicans at the federal level are laying the groundwork for major federal anti-trans legislation should they return to power following the 2024 elections.

There is nothing to suggest 2024 will see any reduction in these kinds of bills. It seems obvious, but these bills have a major impact on the mental health and general well-being for the trans community.  

It goes beyond political games. The 2015 US Transgender Survey finds high levels of violence in everyday life. Ten percent reported violence from a family member. Of school age, 54% were verbally attacked, 24% physically. Trans people are three times as likely to be living in poverty.

In addition, trans people are living with HIV at at nearly five times the rate of the overall U.S. population. Rates are higher among trans women, especially trans women of color. Nearly one in five Black trans women are living with HIV, and American Indian and Latina women also have higher rates within their communities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that the same trends within the broader HIV epidemic are hitting the Black trans community especially hard: Among trans people, Black women made up nearly half of all new cases.

This is violence.

In response, AIDS United launched the Transgender Leadership Initiative and has partnered with organizations such as Game Changing Men to highlight both the problems facing these communities and also the incredible trans-led activism we see on the ground, particularly in the South.

There’s also cause for optimism: 60% of respondents said they were out to a close family and felt supported. Despite the political attacks, there is a broader uptick in trans acceptance. This does not mean any of us can afford to sit on the sidelines and merely wait. History shows us how such things can swing back to a far more dangerous world, and we must continue to support activists, lobby Congress and respect all gender identities.

In addition, in 2021 the Biden administration marked Transgender Day of Remembrance for the first time at a federal level and has done so each passing year.

Today is not only about remembrance, but also about fostering a sense of community and healing. AIDS United is dedicated to trans HIV health and trans rights, no matter how long it takes to achieve equality.