The importance of Transgender Day of Remembrance


These are the winning essays sponsored by T Project and Joeten-Kiyu Public Library that sought to answer the question: What is Transgender Day of Remembrance, and why is it important?

What is LGBTQ+? As a child, I never really understood what it meant to be part of the LGBTQ+ community. I didn’t even know such a community existed. I never understood the strict borders between pink and blue, between dolls and race cars, between pretty dresses and sports-related T-shirts. I never understood why these boundaries existed, and why people discriminate against others for being who they are.

My name is Ian. I am a 14-year-old boy at Saipan International School. As I went into middle school I heard many jokes using homosexuality such as “You’re gay.” It became so casual among most students. In fact, I began to make jokes and I became the occasional immature peer who uses homosexuality to make jokes, because I did not know the severity of discrimination or the history of the LGBTQ+ community.

The community that we live in tends to believe that different people are “weird.” Gender variance is older than we think, and trans people are part of that legacy. What is Transgender Day of Remembrance? It was started in 1999 by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith as a vigil to honor the memory of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was murdered in 1998. The vigil commemorated all the transgender people lost to violence since Rita Hester’s death. Rita Hester and many other people died due to hate crimes against transgender people.

Some say that sexual orientation and gender identity are sensitive issues. I understand because I did not grow up talking about these issues. But I learned that lives are at stake. Many people don’t understand; they don’t understand how one can feel such a way and, even worse, they don’t care to make an effort to try and learn anything about transgender people and how they feel. They would rather mock these people than listen to them.

Between October 2019 and September 2020, more than 350 trans and gender diverse people were brutally murdered worldwide. In 2021, 375 transgender people were killed. Not only the LGBTQ+ community, but other communities as well, such as people of color, are viciously treated for being who they are.

People have fought their way for justice. Behind every name stands a life fully lived, a person who loved and was loved. Every day, trans people fight for their right to live. Behind every murder is a society that does not protect trans lives, that does not provide safety and dignity for trans people. The growing racism and xenophobia in many countries is an additional threat to trans migrants and people of color. On Nov. 20, we remember and mourn those we have lost. We need to honor their legacies every day. We fight for our futures. We remember all of them.

“The world tries to bury our beauty, our existence. They tell us to hide our identities deep inside. Yet, like a seed within us we must let ourselves grow, watered with self-love, self-care, and pride. Then to finally blossom.” —Walt Whitman

IAN SONG (Special to the Saipan Tribune)
Ian Song is a 14-year-old student at Saipan International School.

IAN SONG (Special to the Saipan Tribune)

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