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“This Vigil Was Not Just for Remembrance. It Was A Call To Action.”

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LGBTQ advocates mark Transgender Day of Remembrance at UH chapel.

By Lourdes Zavaleta

Dozens gathered at the University of Houston’s A.D. Bruce Religion Center on Saturday evening, Nov. 18, to mark the Transgender Day of Remembrance.

The Houston Transgender Unity Committee, along with UH’s LGBTQ Resource Center and the Organización Latina de Trans en Texas, put on the annual event to memorialize those killed in 2017 because of anti-trans hatred and prejudice.

Lorraine Schroeder, the LGBTQ Resource Center’s director, opened the ceremony and introduced its host, Monyque, from the Houston Transgender Unity Committee.

Monyque shared some statistics on trans deaths she’s been compiling over the last five years. In 2017, 279 trans people were reported killed. A majority of them were trans women of color from South America.

The number of trans deaths in the U.S. has continued to rise each year since Monyque began collecting data. Three of the 2017 murders occurred in Texas. The body of Kenne McFadden, a 27-year-old trans woman, was found in the San Antonio River on April 9. On August 13, 26-year-old Gwenevere River Song was fatally shot in Waxahachie. And on October 21, 47-year-old Elizabeth Stephanie Montez was found shot to death near Corpus Christi.

Featured speaker Ana Andrea Molina, from the Organización Latina de Trans en Texas, dedicated her remarks to trans trailblazers Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Davis. Molina spoke in Spanish and was translated by Silvia Chicas.  

“The deaths of murdered trans women for some has been our inspiration to continue in the struggle, and for others, it has been a reason to hide,” Molina said. “But we have a right to happiness and to live free from fear.”

Captain M. W. Martin from the Houston Police Department talked about what HPD is doing to protect marginalized communities and how the department ensures that victims of hate crimes get justice. Martin said social awareness is the best way to keep trans people safe.

“HPD does as much as we can to prevent hate crimes, but when someone is killed, it’s too late,” Martin said. “We need to begin with the awareness of citizens. Getting to know who trans people are is where change will start.”

The names of each trans person murdered in the last year, along with locations and brief descriptions of the crimes, were read by Dylan Wilde Forbis, Fran Watson, Rhys Caraway, Jolanda Jones, Michael Travis, and Cordelia Wannemacher.

Monyque closed the ceremony in tears.

“This vigil was not just for remembrance,” Monyque said. “It was a call to action.”

The event was followed by a post-reading debriefing sponsored by Black Lives Matter Houston.

Monday at 6 p.m., UH will host another TDOR event.Transform Houston and HOUequality will premier Major!, a documentary about the life of Major Griffin-Gracy, a 75-year-old trans activist, at Agnes Arnold Hall.

 

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Lourdes Zavaleta

Lourdes Zavaleta is a staff writer for OutSmart magazine. She recently graduated from the University of Houston with a degree in journalism. When Zavaleta isn’t at OutSmart, she tutors writing at UH-Clear Lake. She also runs a comedy Twitter account with over 34,000 followers.
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