BY PAUL SCHINDLER | November 20 is the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance to honor and mourn those lost to violence based on hatred of their gender identity, expression, or nonconformity.
According to statistics from Gay Men’s Health Crisis, in the past year there have been 271 documented murders of transgender people worldwide, the majority of the victims being trans women of color. It is unknown how many more murders went unreported.
Statistics from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs show 22 documented murders of transgender and gender non-conforming people in the US in 2015; 19 of the victims were people of color.
The GMHC statistics indicate that in the past seven years, 1,933 such murders have been documented around the world. Seventy-eight percent of them –– or 1,507 –– were reported in 23 countries in Central and South America. It is evident, however, that reporting and documenting these crimes vary widely from one part of the world to the other, so it’s unclear how well the continent-by-continent breakdown captures the comparative severity of such crimes worldwide.
Those same statistics show that in 16 countries in Asia, 174 murders of transgender people have been documented since January 2008. The number in the United States, Mexico, and Canada has been 134. In 15 countries in Europe, 104 murders have been documented. Four countries in Africa, where reporting is clearly inadequate, have documented nine murders in the past eight years, while four countries in Oceania have documented five murders.
Currently, the US has no federal statutory nondiscrimination protections based on either sexual orientation or gender identity and expression, and only 19 states and the District of Columbia provide protections based on gender identity and expression. The degree of that protection varies among those 19 states, particularly on the question of access to public accommodations, where access to traditionally sex-segregated facilities like locker rooms and bathrooms has caused controversy –– at times inflammatory–– in some states.
The Picture in New York
New York State offers no comprehensive statutory protections based on gender identity and expression, though Governor Andrew Cuomo recently announced that the State Division of Human Rights will, going forward, define discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression as sex discrimination. In addition, discrimination based on “gender dysphoria” –– defined medically as having a gender identity different from the sex assigned at birth –– will be defined as discrimination based on disability. Both sex and disability have long been protected categories under New York State law.
Cuomo took his action after nearly 13 years of frustration on the part of transgender advocates and their allies in Albany to win approval for the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA). The bill, passed numerous times by the Democratic-controlled State Assembly, has never gotten a vote in the Senate. The bill’s sponsor, Daniel Squadron, a Lower Manhattan-Brownstone Brooklyn Democrat, and his out gay West Side Democratic colleague Brad Hoylman have been fiercely critical of the Senate’s Republican leadership for its unwillingness to allow a floor vote. Advocates have long been cautiously optimistic that if a floor vote were held, the support of nearly every Democrat plus a handful of Republicans would allow the measure to prevail.
Despite Squadron’s frustration about Senate inaction on GENDA again as this year’s session wound down in late June, in tandem with Hoylman, he did manage to win approval of a Senate resolution recognizing November 20 as Transgender Day of Remembrance in New York State. Votes on resolutions are not recorded, so it’s unclear exactly what to make of the Senate’s willingness to let this resolution proceed, but it does contain several remarkable statements.:
“This Legislative Body recognizes that the Transgender Day of Remembrance stands for not only the pursuit of mutual respect and full equality but also to remember those who have lost their lives because of their gender identity or expression; and WHEREAS, We also recognize that transgender members of our society are disproportionately affected by hate crimes and violence in our communities; and WHEREAS, On Transgender Day of Remembrance we pause to remember the hundreds of transgender people across the nation who are the victims of hate-motivated violence every year, including bullying, sexual assault, and homicide; and WHEREAS, We also pause to remember that it is, shockingly, still legal in many places, including the State of New York, to discriminate against individuals on the basis of gender expression or identity, simply for being who they are.”
There, the Senate went on record shocked at its own intransigence, and then it went on to recognize that progress elsewhere has been more promising:
Despite the challenges faced by the transgender community, in observing the Transgender Day of Remembrance, we recognize, admire, and celebrate the growing awareness and acceptance of transgender people and the 18 states that have established full rights for transgender individuals despite the ongoing struggles faced by the transgender community across the nation.
Transgender Day of Remembrance Observed in New York
Over the next several days, Transgender Day of Remembrance will be marked in a variety of ways citywide:
Transgender Day of Remembrance Vigil
November 20, 4:30 p.m.
Steps of City Hall
Sponsored by the New York City Council LGBT Caucus
446 West 33rd Street/
November 20, 5:30-6:15 p.m.
LGBT Community Center
Release of “Transgender Health and Economic Insecurity:
A Report from the 2015 NY State LGBT Health
and Human Services Needs Assessment”
208 West 13th Street
November 20, 6 p.m.'
Sponsored by the Empire State Pride Agenda
and the New York State Department of Health
You must RSVP to info@Stren
Transgender Day of Remembrance Vigil
Invited speakers and a community speak-out
Festival of Lights & Moment of Reflection
November 20, 7-9 p.m.
Vigil featuring speakers, Moment of Silent
Poetry performance by local trans poets:
Trace Peterson, Calliope Jennings,
Persephone Smith & Thel Seraphim
Grand Army Plaza
November 20, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Hosted by the Brooklyn Community Pride Center
LGBT Faith Leaders of African Descent Event
Performance, panel discussion
Reading of names of transgender people killed in hate violence
November 21, 2:30-5 p.m.
Faison Firehouse, 6 Hancock Place
Near 124th Street, btwn. Morningside and Manhattan Avenues
Transgender Day of Celebration & Remembrance
SAGE Cinema Presents Alain Berliner’s 1997
“Ma Vie en Rose” (“My Life in Pink”)
Ludovic is a child seen by family and community as a boy,
but lives as a girl, while her family struggles to accept her
Pride Center of Staten Island/ SAGE
25 Victory Boulevard
November 21, 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Trans Remembrance Service
November 21, 12:30-1:30 p.m.
“Spectrum” –– Trans* Open Mic
November 21, 4-6 p.m.
Silent march, vigil & forum
November 23, 6 p.m.
March starts at 138th Street & Willis Avenue
Proceeds to Hunter College on 118th Street
Sponsored by the Harlem Bronx LGBT Task Force
For more information, contact Carlos Rosario