Four local LGBTQ organizations are hosting events in honor of Transgender Awareness Week (TAW) from November 13 to 19, and the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) on November 20.
TDOR was established by trans advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith in 1999 to honor Rita Hester, the Black trans woman who educated her community on trans issues and was killed in 1998. At least 31 trans people have been killed so far in 2022, a majority of whom are Black and Latinx, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
FLAS, Inc., a nonprofit organization that is committed to enhancing the health and wellness of Houston’s LGBTQ Latino community, will pay tribute to the trans people who were murdered over the last two years at a candlelight vigil on November 18. The three-hour event will start at 5 p.m. at the Consulado General De México en Houston, or Consulate General of Mexico in Houston. After the names of those fallen trans people are read and a moment of silence is observed, stories of local trans Latina immigrants will be shared and celebrated.
“It is important to give visibility to the Latino trans community, to raise awareness about who we are, that we exist, that we resist, and we are not going anywhere,” says Elia Chinó, a national Latina trans leader and founder and director of FLAS, Inc.
Chinó remembers one of the first TDOR events that her group organized four years ago. They called out the names of those trans people who were murdered and punctuated each name by ringing a holistic bowl. Halfway through the observance, the bowl broke. “I felt like the trans people who were killed were in the room, like it was a sign of their presence,” she remembers.
The 2022 FLAS event will offer people in the LGBTQ community and beyond a chance to learn more about the trans community and the needs of Latino trans immigrants. “We are humans, and we deserve to have respect, dignity, and equality across everything.”
Devoted to uplifting the queer Black community, The Normal Anomaly Initiative, Inc. (TNA) has a TAW- and TDOR-related event that will provide the LGBTQ community and ally organizations with training on actionable ways they can help the trans community, and especially Black trans women. The exercises will be offered by trained local Black trans women at Lee College in Baytown. The first training was held on November 14, which TNA designates as Trans Ally Day. Another training will be held at Lee College on November 17 at 11 a.m. The events will be live streamed for all audiences.
To further support and protect Black trans women, TNA will relaunch its Transgender Ally Collective on November 14 to provide allyship training to elected officials and ally organizations.
Joelle Bayaa-Uzuri Espeut, TNA director of programming and a Black trans woman, notes that while remembering trans people who were murdered is important, empowering the trans community by continuing to offer them opportunities to be leaders is also key to a more inclusive future.
“We cannot just be the story of loss, heartache, and pain. We also have to uplift the trans community that is here and build the community of the future,” Espeut emphasizes.
She remembers the first time she participated in a TDOR event. Dee Dee Watters, a Black trans advocate, spoke at the event and handed every Black trans woman who attended a two-dollar bill, which is the average cost of bus fare. The bill represented their community’s support and a way back home for trans women whenever they felt lost and had nothing else. Espeut still has her two-dollar bill stored away for safekeeping.
In a partnership with Save Our Sisters United, Inc. (SOSU), The Mahogany Project (TMP) will host its annual Black Trans Empowerment Week from November 15 to 21. The organizations created that series of events to celebrate Black trans people.
“Black Trans Empowerment Week is a love letter to all Black trans people and all their Blackness, and all their transness,” says Verniss McFarland, the founder of TMP who uses she/they pronouns and their first name as a pronoun.
TMP was formed to reduce social isolation, stigma, and injustice toward TQLGB+ communities of color. In honor of TDOR and TAW, the nonprofit will show a documentary about several Black trans Houstonians and host its annual spoken- and visual-arts event called Dear Marsha, which will feature local singers and drag artists.
In preparation for Black Trans Empowerment Week on November 14, TMP will discuss the importance of the week by engaging the University of Houston faculty, staff, and students at the Women and Gender Resource Center. All TMP events will be held in person.
Black Trans Empowerment Week provides opportunities for people to connect and form lifelong bonds. McFarland did just that when they teamed up with Atlantis Narcisse, the founder of SOSU, a nonprofit that connects trans people to trans-friendly services and communities. “Black Trans Empowerment Week and the Alliance Party was how Atlantis became my mentor, my mom, and the person whose footsteps I decided to follow as an advocate, a community leader, and as someone who wants to catapult our trans community in Houston,” McFarland says.
With tears in their eyes, McFarland remembers the first time TMP and SOSU hosted Black Trans Empowerment Week. During their first exchange with Narcisse while she was getting her photos taken, McFarland stood in the doorway and watched in awe.
Narcisse then asked McFarland, “You gonna stand there the whole time and watch me?” To which McFarland laughed, “Yeah, if you’ll let me!”
As TDOR and TAW approaches, McFarland notes, “This is a prime opportunity for allies and organizations to support and lend whatever resources or capital they have to elevate TDOR and TAW events led by trans people.”
For more information on these community organizations, visit flasinc.org, normalanomaly.org, and themahoganyproject.org. Check out a list of local events celebrating TAW, TDOR, and the trans community below:
The Normal Anomaly Initiative, Inc.’s Pilot Trans Ally training
November 17 at 11 a.m., Lee College
The events will be led by trained local Black trans women who will share actionable ways the LGBTQ community and ally organizations can help the trans community, and especially Black trans women. For more information, visit normalanomaly.org.
Save Our Sisters United, Inc. and The Mahogany Project’s Black Trans Empowerment Week
A love letter to the Black trans community, that series of events will celebrate Black trans folk and give attendees an opportunity to network. For more information, visit Sosuinc.org/, and themahoganyproject.org.
FLAS, Inc.’s Candlelight Vigil
November 18 at 5 p.m., Consulate General of Mexico in Houston
The event will honor those trans people who were killed over the last two years. It will also give local trans Latina immigrants the chance to share their stories and needs. For more information, visit Flasinc.org.
Transgender Education Network of Texas (TENT)’s Love Letters to Trans People Campaign
November 20, online
Instead of organizing its annual TDOR event, TENT will unveil a digital gallery made of hundreds of love letters to trans people from around the world to highlight local events organized by Black- and brown-led trans organizations. The letters will appear across TENT’s social media accounts and on its website. They will be accessible and updated for the foreseeable future. For more information, visit Transtexas.org/news/tdor2022.
Organización Latina de Trans en Texas (OLTT)’s Trans-Giving Day and Trans Recordación (Trans Remembrance)
November 21 at 5 p.m., Consulate General of Mexico in Houston
The double event will take place at the same time. Trans Recordación will honor those trans people who were murdered, while Trans-Giving will celebrate trans people and their resilience. Spots at the Trans-Giving Day event are limited. Individuals can register to attend the event at 713.485.4414. “We will honor their lives,” says OLTT founder Anandrea Molina. For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/latinastranstexas/.
The Montrose Center’s TGiving Celebration
November 22 at 5 p.m., the Montrose Center
The Montrose Center has not typically held events on TDOR in support of trans-led TDOR events. To honor the trans community, it will hold its annual in-person trans Thanksgiving potluck, a tradition originated by the late Brenda Thomas, a local trans activist. The party is free and open to all. For more information, visit montrosecenter.org.