SAN DIEGO – Although the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) is a solemn day to honor and remember the lives of people who have died as a result of transphobia and hate, there was a hint of excitement in Hillcrest this morning as community members gathered to watch the transgender flag be raised on the Hillcrest Pride Flag pole.
TDOR has been observed in cities around the world since 1999. This year marks the 10th anniversary of San Diego’s TDOR event, which includes this morning’s flag-raising, and a candlelit vigil and ceremony tonight.
The event is held each year on Nov. 20, and was first created to honor the death of Rita Hester, whose murder on Nov. 28, 1998 initiated the "Remembering Our Dead" project and a San Francisco vigil in 1999.
Over the years, the day has evolved from being a web-based project to becoming an international effort to raise public awareness of hate crimes against transgender people. Events organized by activists in communities around the world publicly mourn and honor the lives of those who might have otherwise been forgotten.
A number of larger LGBT organizations have joined in to support the efforts of TDOR, including the Human Rights Campaign (HRC).
"Today we commemorate our transgender brothers and sisters we’ve lost, and stand in solidarity against hate-based violence," said Chad Griffin, HRC president. "Transgender people face violence at unfathomable rates and we must keep all those affected by these crimes in our memory so that we can see an end to this brutality.”
HRC notes that statistics on anti-transgender violence are startling.
Twelve percent of reported hate crimes were against transgender people according to a 2008 report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Program (NCAVP). NCAVP also found that, in 2011, 40 percent of murders against the LGBT community were against transgender women, particularly women of color.
Seventy-eight percent of transgender children in grades K-12 reported being harassed in school, 35 percent physically assaulted, and 12 percent sexually assaulted, according to a 2011 report from the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
Raising the transgender flag
Today’s flag-raising was a unique first for the San Diego community, as the stewards of the recently installed Hillcrest Pride Flag pole approved a request to fly the transgender flag at half mast today, without issue.
A transgender flag was also raised on San Francisco’s iconic Castro flag pole, however it came after several months of debate between community leaders and the Upper Castro Merchants Association, who maintain the flag there.
San Diego community leaders expressed their thanks to the Hillcrest Business Association (HBA) board members, who unanimously voted to accept the proposal brought forth by local activist Blue Montana.
At this morning’s ceremony, where about 50 people gathered on Normal Street at the base of the flag pole, City Councilmember Todd Gloria thanked the HBA and San Diego Pride for their support of the flying the transgender flag.
“This issue was not controversial here as it was in other cities, and the efforts of those who made it happen are appreciated,” Gloria said.
Gloria also spoke about the need for more people in the LGB community to stand up for the transgender community.
“The ‘T’ in LGBT is often too silent. We must do more to protect our brothers and sisters to advocate for issues our ‘T’ brothers and sisters face,” Gloria said.
Connor Maddocks, a local transgender community activist and one of the organizers of today’s ceremony, opened the event saying that his hope is for a day when TDOR is no longer necessary.
“Our hope is that someday we will not have to have this day, and when that time comes, we will only need to honor those we have lost in the past, not in the last year,” Maddocks said.
Just before the flag was raised, Sister Raven of the San Diego Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence blessed that flag that will fly on the pole until the end of today.
Raven used a string, feather and glitter in her blessing, explaining the meaning of each item.
“The string represents each and every one of us – together we can be interwoven and we make up the fabric of our community. In mass, feathers render us the capability to soar, much like this flag will do today. And this glitter, which has been blessed by the Sisters, represents the beauty and inner sparkle with which we strive to achieve every single day,” Raven said, asking the crowd to see the flag as a reminder of pride and dignity.
After a few closing remarks, the flag was raised, followed by a moment of silence.
Transgender Day of Remembrance will continue with two sets of events tonight, taking place in Hillcrest and Oceanside.
The Hillcrest event will include a candlelit vigil at 6 pm followed by a ceremony at 7 pm. Participants should gather at The San Diego LGBT Community Center, 3909 Centre St., for the vigil and ceremony.
More information is HERE.
In Oceanside, the North County LGBTQ Resource Center will also host a TDOR event, including a candlelit procession and ceremony. Participants will meet at Oceanside Civic Plaza at 300 North Coast Highway, and end at the North County LGBTQ Resource Center.
Both ceremonies will include a reading of names, special presentations, and time for reflection.
More information about Transgender Day of Remembrance is HERE.