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SoCal to honor Transgender Day of Remembrance

In solidarity with transgender-serving organizations and activists around the globe, events in honor of the 16th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) will be held today across Southern California, including in Hillcrest, Oceanside, Long Beach, Palm Springs, Orange County and Riverside.

First held in 1999, TDOR is a somber occasion to remember each and every transgender person who has lost their life to violence because of who they are. Statistics show that 226 transgender people were murdered in 28 countries between Oct. 1, 2013 and Sept. 30, 2014, according to Transgender Europe's Trans Murder Monitoring project. The most murders during that time period happened in Brazil (113), Mexico (31), Honduras (12), Venezuela (10) and the United States (10).

Gwendolyn Ann Smith organized that first vigil in remembrance of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was killed in 1998. The vigil commemorated all the transgender people lost to violence that year and began an important memorial that has become the annual TDOR.

“The Transgender Day of Remembrance seeks to highlight the losses we face due to anti-transgender bigotry and violence,” Smith has stated in the past. “I am no stranger to the need to fight for our rights, and the right to simply exist is first and foremost. With so many seeking to erase transgender people — sometimes in the most brutal ways possible — it is vitally important that those we lose are remembered, and that we continue to fight for justice.”

San Diego remembers

In San Diego, event have been organized for many years by The Center’s Project TRANS, a program that provides services and advocacy for the transgender community.

Connor Maddocks, coordinator of Project TRANS, said that he is expecting over 200 people to participate in this year’s San Diego event, which will include a candlelight vigil and march leaving from The Center at 6 pm, followed by a program back at The Center at 7 pm.

Maddocks invites the entire community to join in the event, and to come hear from the speakers, who will discuss what the day means to them. They will also read the names of those whose lives have been lost since last year’s memorial. According to SDGLN media partner GLAAD, the cycle of violence against transgender and gender non-conforming people has this year claimed at least 16 lives in the United States alone. GLAAD noted that many more incidences of murder and violence against transgender people go unreported.

Even after 16 years, Maddocks says this is why the event is still crucial to the transgender community.

“I have been part of this event for 10 years now and every year I hope against hope that the next year we will see fewer names on the list, but every year it seems to grow bigger,” he said. “There are over 168 names now on the list, [that’s 168 nationwide] transgender people who have been killed in just the last 12 months.

“We are fortunate here in San Diego that this has not been a place of horrible violence for my community, but I feel frustrated and deeply saddened that we don’t have an answer to how to stop it happening in other cities around the world,” Maddocks said.

In a recent interview with LogoTV, acclaimed transgender actress Laverne Cox mentioned how a fear of violence can warp young transgender people’s development and sense of self.

“Many times during my transition I would wake up and be in fear of leaving my apartment,” Cox said. “I would ask myself, is this the day someone is going to have a problem with me and I’m going to lose my life?”

Maddocks agreed and said the event is always an emotional experience for him.

“When I hear about each person lost to anti-transgender violence it makes me realize how much work we need to continue to do to raise awareness about my community,” Maddocks said. “We need to share who we really are and wipe out the stereotypes and misinformation about transgender people in general. There is so much sadness at this event, for the wonderful people we lost, for those who have lost a brother, sister, daughter, son, or friend. And it is all due to senseless violence against people who only want to live their true, authentic lives.”

The annual Transgender Day of Remembrance event, which Maddocks said is held to raise awareness of the violence that is still happening all over the world, also helps people outside of the transgender community understand the needs of trans people and become allies. With that, Maddocks encourages everyone, transgender or not, to attend the event, to remember, reflect, and learn.

“Until we all stop being passive bystanders and instead become people who will stand up and help stop the senseless murder of any innocent person, we cannot change the world,” Maddocks said.

Community members are invited to gather at The Center, 3909 Centre St. in Hillcrest, at 6 pm tonight for the march and vigil which will take place around the streets of Hillcrest. The marchers will then meet back at The Center for a 7 pm program. The transgender flag will also fly on the Hillcrest Pride Flag pole that day.

For more information, search for the Facebook the Transgender Day of Remembrance event page or contact Maddocks at 619-692-2077 ext. 109, or email trans@thecentersd.org.

Other TDOR events

North County San Diego/Oceanside, 6-7:30 pm
Meet at the North County LGBTQ Resource Center
510 North Coast Highway, Oceanside, CA 92054

Long Beach, 6:30-8 pm
Meet at Third and Promenade
Long Beach, CA 90802

Palm Springs, 7-8 pm
Meet at Francis Stevens Park
500 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, CA 92262

Orange County/Santa Ana, 5:30-8 pm
Meet at Plaza Santa Ana
Fourth and French St., Santa Ana, CA 92701

Riverside, 7 pm
Meet at First Congregational Church
3504 Mission Inn Ave., Riverside, CA 92501

Additional Transgender Day of Remembrance events around the globe are listed HERE.

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George Vernon is a local freelance writer. He can be reached at georgevernon76@gmail.com.