This week (November 14–20), individuals and organizations around the country are participating in Transgender Awareness Week to help raise the visibility of transgender and gender non-conforming people, and address the issues the community faces. The week culminates with the international Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR), an annual observance on November 20 that honors the memory of those whose lives were lost in acts of anti-transgender violence.
Locally, Access AIDS Care and the LGBT Center of Hampton Roads is commemorating the day with a stellar roster of speakers Hampton Roads Convention Center. Former Navy SEAL Kristin Beck, Gloucester high school student Gavin Grimm and Atlanta-based activist Toni-Michelle Williams will speak about their experiences.
The keynote speaker at the event is decorated former U.S. Navy SEAL Kristin Beck. Beck garnered nationwide attention in 2013 when she came out as the first openly transgender Navy SEAL and published her memoir, “Warrior Princess: A U.S. Navy SEAL’s Journey to Coming out Transgender,” detailing her experiences. Beck is also a sought out speaker and subject of the 2014 CNN documentary, “Lady Valor: The Kristin Beck Story.”
Gavin Grimm, the 17-year-old transgender male student who made headlines this year after suing the Gloucester County schools over its restroom use policy and who was recently named to Time Magazine’s list of most influential teens for 2016 will also address attendees. Rounding out the speaker roster will be Norfolk native Toni-Michelle Williams, advocate for black transgender justice and Leadership Development and Programs Coordinator for SNaP Co- The Solutions Not Punishment Coalition based in Atlanta, GA.
Transgender Day of Remembrance was started by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith as a vigil to honor her memory 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 Transgender Day of Remembrance.
The civil rights of transgender and gender non-conforming citizens have been at the forefront of national political and social debate as progress toward greater acceptance is met with challenges. Recently, transgender members of the military are now allowed to serve openly and receive medical care. Concurrently, the elemental right to choose which restroom to use that corresponds to one’s gender identity is being challenged nationwide. These issues and ongoing violence against members of the transgender community highlight the importance for events such as TDOR.
“Persons who identify as transgender or gender non-conforming are often the less visible within the LGBT community, are frequently the recipients of the harshest discrimination and are often victims of violence, said Mary Aab, Director of The LGBT Center of Hampton Roads. “Our Center is here to support them and walk with them on their journey and TDOR is an event that honors and recognizes these individuals in our community.”
WANT TO GO?
What: Transgender Day of Remembrance
When: Sunday, November 20, 2 – 6 PM
Where: Hampton Roads Convention Center
Admission is free to the public.