Transgender Day of Remembrance
November 20, 2018
I look out the window to see the already gloomy weather turn into a messy wintry mix and wonder if our students will be able to observe Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR). Nationally, it is held on November 20th, but our College of Medicine students will have headed out for break by then, so they asked if they could host the event a few days early. Seemed like a great idea when they asked. After all, we didn't want to miss the opportunity not only to remember those who were killed, but also help raise awareness about the discrimination experienced by this community. Who knew the weather would be just as somber as the event the students wanted to hold?
The first Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) happened in 1999. It was created in an effort to remember those whose lives were violently lost at the hands of those trying to erase the transgender and gender non-conforming population. The movement has grown immensely, and what began as an online tribute is now an internationally recognized event. On Nov. 20th, many will observe the day by raising the transgender flag, reading victims' names and reflecting with a moment of silence.
TDOR may only happen once a year, but there's a lot we can do each day to honor those who lost their lives and continue to raise awareness in our own communities. Here are a few ways we can get involved:
- Get educated:
Take the time to learn more about transgender and gender non-conforming topics, issues and challenges. The National Center for Transgender Equality's 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey [PDF] states that transgender and nonconforming populations (TGNC) struggle with severe economic hardship and instability. One-third of the respondents live in poverty as compared to 12% of the general US population – likely related to their reported unemployment rate being 3 times higher than that of the general U.S. population. The American Psychological Association (APA) published a number of resources to help people better understand the lifespan development, stigma, discrimination and barriers to care faced by transgender and gender nonconforming people.
- Be willing to talk:
If someone wants to tell you about their transition or share their coming-out journey, take the time to listen. It means that they trust and respect you enough to have this deeply personal and sometimes scary – scary because they have no idea how you'll react – conversation. But a conversation implies a two-way street, so make sure you respond and engage as well. Brushing it off as "no big deal" isn't the best approach. Maybe someday this conversation won't be a big deal anymore, but we aren't living in a post-gender society yet. So be genuine and honest, and tell them how you're feeling or how you're receiving the information - even if it means telling them you're not quite sure what to say or how to react.
- Attend an event:
There are many organizations that are working to improve the lives of transgender and non-conforming people around the world. Find one that resonates with you and attend one of their meetings or events, or better yet volunteer for an event. You can also take the time to learn about and support local TGNC artists through sites like Trans Day of Resilience and support local TGNC business owners.
My thoughts are interrupted as our students gather in the Student Diversity Center. The weather is keeping them from raising the flag in our main quad, but it is not going to keep them from honoring this event. They drape the flag over a set of bookshelves behind them, and a few students take turns reading the names of the victims while the rest of us listen in silent remembrance. Discrimination and violence against this population continues. Just a few weeks ago, right here in our home of Philadelphia, a trans woman of color was murdered. The students read her name out loud. While some progress has been made, there is still more to do if we ever hope to reach our goal of total acceptance. As you pay homage to the trans flag that will fly on all of Drexel's campuses on November 20th, consider how you can help. Allies are critical in this struggle.
Issa DiSciullo, MS
Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
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