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Transgender Day of Remembrance 2020

November 20, 2020

Shell Myers, Administrative Coordinator for the Art & Art History Department, Westphal College of Media Arts & Design and a candidate for a master's in Family Therapy in Drexel's College of Nursing and Health Professions. “Transgender Day of Remembrance is a day to honor and grieve the lives of trans people murdered for being themselves,” said Shell Myers, a member of CNHP Board of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and student in the Master of Family Therapy program. Today, November 20, marks the 21st observance of Transgender Day of Remembrance. Founded by Gwendolyn Ann Smith to memorialize the murder of Rita Hester, a transgender woman, in 1998, it has evolved into an international day of action.

“Black trans women and femmes are pioneers and leaders of the trans and LGBTQ+ rights movements, and yet they still do not have the right to a life free from violence. They face multiple barriers to healthcare, including racism, transphobia and misogyny,” Myers continued.

The Human Rights Campaign stated in their recently released report, “An Epidemic Of Violence: Fatal Violence Against Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming People in the United States in 2020,” that, since January 2013, they and other advocates have recorded “at least 202 transgender and gender nonconforming individuals who were victims of fatal violence in the U.S. In 2020, HRC recorded 37 fatalities— 22 were Black and 7 were Latinx; 25 were Black or Latinx women—at the time of publication, the highest number they’ve tracked thus far in a single year.”

Drexel University Transgender flag at half mast. Courtesy of DrexelNOWLGBTQ+ people are still not a protected class in Pennsylvania. It is legal to discriminate with respect to housing, education and employment outside of Philadelphia's jurisdiction. “Pennsylvania still has the 'trans panic defense' for legal cases. If you murder someone, you can use that 'this person was trans and didn't tell me' as a defense for your case,” explained Myers.

The College of Nursing and Health Professions, through the work of Veronica Carey, PhD, the assistant dean of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and the board on which Myers and a 20 other faculty, staff and students sit, is providing opportunities for reflection, dialogue and action to acknowledge past and ongoing injustices in society at large and address our role in perpetuating these injustices and formulating strategies to prevent them.

Drexel is using this day to uplift and honor non-binary and transgender communities by raising Drexel transgender flags on all three campuses as a sign of solidarity. “Trans Day of Remembrance exists because we must continue fighting for our trans siblings' right to exist,” Myers concluded.

Written by Roberta S. Perry