An air of sadness filled the Atrium Building downtown last Friday as participants in the 17th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance vigil read through a list of names of gender diverse people who were murdered this year.
Candles were lit during the Nov. 20 vigil and a two-minute silence was held to honor those who lost their lives. For Grace Goodrich, one of the organizers of the vigil, this is not only a time for mourning, but also a warning.
“I definitely am warned every day to be careful of who I’m around, and who I present around,” Grace said. “Crossing a street, you look down, you see a group of guys and you think, ‘maybe I shouldn’t go that way.’ You always have to look out for yourself.”
According to the Transgender Day of Remembrance website, there have been 90 confirmed cases of transgender and gender diverse murders worldwide in 2015 alone, and 78 confirmed cases in 2014. These numbers do not account for trans people who have committed suicide due to being bullied or ostracized. According to The Williams Institute — whose research specializes in sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy — 41 percent of transgender people have attempted suicide at least once.
“Oftentimes what people think about is how [trans] people are murdered because of ignorance or direct violence,” Oblio Stroyman, another organizer of the vigil, said. “People who give the glares, who bully, who aren’t kind to people who are gender diverse, really create an environment where people kill themselves. That is also violence.”
Some members of the transgender community believe the best way to bring an end to these tragedies is by being visible to the public eye and educating the community.
“Part of the mistreatment of the community comes from not understanding our community, as well as our community being silenced. Working against that can help educate those folks that are bigoted [against] folks like myself,” Reid Ellingson, ASLCC’s Gender and Sexual Diversity Advocate, said. “Visibility is incredibly vital to our community.”
Ellingson also feels that gender diverse people are not properly represented here at Lane, adding that very few faculty members acknowledge transgender students. He urges Lane students and staff to educate themselves and each other on how transgender people ought to be treated, so that they can feel like part of the community.
“As a transgender man, [I] can count on three fingers the number of teachers who have used my pronouns for me, as well as respected that part of my identity,” Ellingson said. “The majority of my instructors, despite telling them what my pronouns are, haven’t used them.”
Despite representation and treatment of transgender people improving over the decades, many feel there is still a lot of progress to be made.
“I can see why people would be afraid, because we’re different, but all we want to do is live our lives,” Ava Galtere, attendee of the vigil, said, echoing what many were saying that evening. “Just be nice, not just to transgender people, but to all human beings.”