What is Transgender Day of Remembrance and why is it important?


Note from T-Project founder Tyra Lyn Sablan: On Nov. 20, 2021, we will be celebrating Transgender Day of Remembrance. I cannot thank each and everyone one of you enough for your contributions to our community. It is because of people like you who take action in ensuring that every community member has an equal opportunity to thrive that powers our movement for social justice. In celebration of Transgender Day of Remembrance, I would like to share with you a passionate and beautiful essay from one of our T-Project Angels.

LGBTQ* stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and the * symbolizes everyone in our community not represented in the five letters.

Yet for the longest time, LGBTQ* was only LGB. T was only added in the ’90s, very recent considering how long the battle has been for LGBTQ* rights.

The word “transgender” didn’t exist until 1971, but transgender (or trans) people certainly existed before 1971. The lack of descriptive words for being trans until recently makes it difficult to know and understand trans history and the experiences of trans people today.

Something said often is that trans women of color were pivotal in the Stonewall Riots, a famous moment in the modern fight for LGBTQ* rights. But 1969 predates the use of the word transgender. This affects our understanding of history and its participants.

It is widely accepted that Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera were transgender, but didn’t have the words to properly explain their experience. Despite being willing to fight for their LGBTQ* peers, one year after the Stonewall Riots, it was cisgender, white, gay men who excluded trans people from the first annual march after Stonewall, and stripped protections for trans people from early LGBTQ* civil rights bills.

The murders of trans people like Marsha P. Johnson and countless others still go uninvestigated and unreported. And we don’t talk about it. Their voices are priceless, and a tragedy we cannot even begin to comprehend. And the loss hasn’t stopped yet. We still attrition LGBTQ* people at an alarming rate. And for trans people it gets worse every year. A total of 44 trans people in the U.S. were murdered in 2020, the worst year on record at the time. This year, 45 trans people have been killed, and this is as of Nov. 9. And the year isn’t even over yet. These are minimum numbers, as trans people’s identities are not always known or reported when crimes occur. Additionally, trans identities can be intentionally concealed or ignored to avoid paperwork and process behind investigating hate crimes and drawing media attention to a region, as well as plain transphobia that exists in law enforcement.

Quite a long intro to my answer to this question: what is Transgender Day of Remembrance, and why is it important? So in short:

What is it? It is about recognizing the traumatic history and treatment of trans people both within and outside of the LGBTQ* community, and bringing greater awareness to the problems trans people faced, are facing, and will face without action. It is about showing our respect to the trans community who are historically the most inclusive and willing to fight for everyone, despite repeated exclusion by the same people they fought for. And it is about seeing the beauty of resilience and strength of trans people throughout history and today, and the contributions of trans people toward achieving true equality.

Why is it important? Because without awareness and action, we are ignoring, and complicit in, a significant  and growing problem. Every day it is becoming more dangerous to be transgender in the United States and around the world, and we need everyone to know this fact, and that we will not allow it to continue. To learn about what it means to be transgender, to learn the history and impact trans people have had, and to show trans people that we will support and defend them, even and especially when others will not.

We’ve come a long way but we’re just getting started. Dedicated to all those who never got to see the freedom we experience and take for granted today.  Your contributions will never be forgotten.


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