For nearly two decades, identifiers with and supporters of the transgender community around the world have come together each year on Nov. 20 to memorialize victims of transphobic violence. This year and in year’s past, things have been no different at Drexel University.
The Student Center for Diversity & Inclusion (SCDI) in conjunction with the Paul Peck Alumni Center hosts the University’s annual Transgender Day of Remembrance memorial event, which this year brought together a diverse array of students, faculty and staff for discussion, solace and visibility.
Alex Iannucci, executive director of Student Life and Campus Engagement, kicked off the event reminding attendees that their presence brings hope amongst the pain, marginalization and adversity experienced by transgender and gender non-binary people today.
“Transgender communities are deprived of employment, housing, healthcare and other necessities,” Iannucci said. “Systems of heteronormativity and cisnormativity create barriers for inclusion, safety and acceptance.”
Iannucci then called upon Jesse Krohn, associate director of education and prevention for the Office of Equality and Diversity, to explain what the University is doing to break down such barriers, like creating and publicizing an inventory of single-person restrooms across Drexel’s multiple campuses, outlining student health insurance coverage for gender confirmation procedures and launching a new system for storing preferred or chosen names.
“[Today is] a day when we recommit to fighting violence and intolerance based on gender or sexuality, and to fostering safe and inclusive spaces for all members of our community,” Krohn said.
A moment of silence was then observed for the 22 victims of transgender violence who lost their lives in the U.S. since the start of the year — most of whom were transgender women of color. Attendees then walked across Market Street to gather around the flag posts at the intersection with 32rd Street, where the blue, pink and white flag which represents the transgender community was flying at half-mast.
Rabbi Isabel de Koninck, executive director and campus rabbi for Hillel at Drexel University, then led the group in a non-denominational prayer.
“We remember those who’ve died because they could not hide, could not pass, who stood too proud or looked like someone who did,” de Koninck said. “…As we raise this flag, we raise up the memories and blessings of each life cut short. As we raise this flag, we are reminded that we are responsible to help bring even more of that light into this world. We are responsible for ensuring that every person is able to let his or her or their unique light shine on this earth in the safety they deserve.”
Tamara Callanan, a fourth-year business and engineering student and the USGA student body president, said she believes it’s important to bring to light issues such as transgender rights and violence that others in the Drexel community may not know about.
“I think it’s really important that there’s that visibility on campus,” she said. “I know OED and the SCDI do a lot of work to do that, so I personally think these events are important.”
Iannucci said awareness about transgender issues is significantly low, and the violence is so high. However, events like this help give people an understanding of what’s going on both nationally and within their communities.
“It gives people the opportunity to join together in a community, even though it’s the pain and marginalization that bring us together,” Iannucci said.
For non-transgender students looking for a way to connect with and benefit that community, Iannucci would urge these students to take action immediately.
“We need you to want to learn and to engage,” Iannucci said, “if you’re looking to be an ally and be involved.”
View a photo gallery from the event below. For more information about University resources for the transgender student community, click here; employees, click here.