TDoR - Of Remembrance and Resilience
November 20th marks the 19th annual Trans Day of Remembrance (TDoR) – a day to memorialize all those who have died because they either identified as trans, non-binary, or gender queer; were drag kings and queens or crossdressers; or their gender identity and expressions differed from stereotypical gender norms.
In 1996, a man killed three women on the Victoria Day weekend in one night. These murders were connected only through this man’s violence and the fact that these women were sex workers; two of them were trans and one cisgender. Two years later, in response to such horrendous crimes, Meal Trans was launched. This program offered members of trans communities a space to come together over a meal – providing space at The 519 for trans people, by trans people.
One year later, in the United States of America, Gwen Ann Smith and other trans community members started TDoR in response to the 1998 murder of Rita Hester (a trans woman whose murder has yet to be solved to this day). Soon after, Meal Trans program participants along with other members of Toronto's trans communities took on organizing their own TDoR.
As trans and non-binary communities continue to grow, so does TDoR. It grows not in just the sense of more people attending and taking note of the extreme violence that trans communities (specifically trans women of color) face, but it also grows in how different communities understand TDoR. For some, TDoR is a day to “mourn the dead, and fight like hell for the living”. For others, it is a day to reflect on all the ways that trans and non-binary communities are subjected to institutional violence. Mourning and remembering those who have passed, many believe, cannot just focus on those who have been murdered through explicit violence. Instead, TDoR is a day to remember all of those in the community we lost from murder, suicide, and substance use.
It must also be recognized that trans women of colour experience the highest levels of violence and this list continues to grow longer because of the violence these women experience. TDoR is an opportunity for us to reflect on larger social issues while thinking about how intersectionality impacts all of our lives.
Eighteen years later, Toronto’s trans communities have come together to also acknowledge a new date – the Trans Day of Resilience. Instead of only celebrating the lives of trans people after they have died, the Trans Day of Resilience will recognize the vibrant and fierce lives of all trans people, but most importantly the lives of Black and Latinx trans women and femmes. A day that allows space to celebrate and acknowledge the incredible amount of work that trans communities do to change the world; a day to recognize the living before commemorating the dead.
This year’s Toronto TDoR is once again being organized by and for trans communities. We have come full circle, with Meal Trans and TDoR falling on the same night of the week this year. On November 20th, we will come out to remember our dead, but also to celebrate their memory and those who continue to live and fight. That evening, there will be space for many experiences of grieving, mourning, and celebration of life. There will be a candlelight vigil along with a reading of names. There will be space for individuals to express their emotions through a communal writing project, as well as an opportunity to eat a meal together. The night will end with a celebration of the lives lived and the recognition that the fight that continues. We will dance together to bring forward new energy to continue the work that needs to get done.
TDoR 2017 event details can be found here: http://www.the519.org/events/trans-day-of-remembrance-2017
TDoR Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1685318961500297/
*The above piece was contributed by our Education and Training department *Showcased artwork by Shawna Taylor, a member of the trans community we lost this year [1978-2017]