Hundreds of people gathered at the Metropolitan Community Church of Washington on Wednesday to commemorate the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance.
“The Transgender Day of Remembrance really marks another day in the struggle to be able to protect the rights of people who are transgender in the District of Columbia,” D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray said.
Transgender advocates Earline Budd, Charles Hastings and Jeri Hughes; Wanda Alston Foundation Executive Director Brian Watson; Nico Quintana of the D.C. Trans Coalition and Casa Ruby CEO Ruby Corado are among those who also spoke.
Organizers of the event honored Gender Rights Maryland Executive Director Dana Beyer, Alison Gardner and her late-husband, Dan Massey. Shirli Hughes, Ovation, the Unity Fellowship Church DC Agape choir and members of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington also performed.
“Tonight we gather here in light and love,” Hastings said. “That light and love is radiating from this building, going all over the city even into the darkest and hate-filled corners.”
Gwendolyn Ann Smith organized the first Transgender Day of Remembrance as a way to honor Rita Hester, a trans woman murdered inside her Boston apartment in 1998.
The D.C. event was one of dozens of Transgender Day of Remembrance commemorations, vigils and other gatherings held across around the world.
Those who gathered at the Metropolitan Community Church of Washington read the names of the 12 trans D.C. residents who have been killed since 2000. They also honored known victims of anti-trans homicides from around the U.S. and the world.
“Each and every one of us is important to our community,” D.C. Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe, who apologized on behalf of the department during last year’s Transgender Day of Remembrance commemoration for the way emergency medical personnel treated Tyra Hunter after a car accident in 1995. She subsequently died from her injuries. “Our commitment to each and every one in this city is important.”
Assistant D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham highlighted the unsolved murders of Stephanie Thomas and Ukea Davis in 2002 and Elexius Woodland in 2005. He said seven of the 12 trans homicides that have taken place in D.C. since 2000 remain open.
“The Metropolitan Police Department does not intend to forget these victims or their families,” Newsham said. “MPD will not be satisfied until all the people responsible for these homicides are brought to justice.”
Gray highlighted the passage of the JaParker Deoni Jones Birth Certificate Equality Amendment Act of 2013 that allows trans Washingtonians to legally change their birth certificates without sex reassignment surgery during his remarks.
He said no trans Washingtonian has lost their life to violence in D.C. so far this year, but there have been a number of attacks he said should be classified as hate crimes.
“We have a long ways to go,” Gray said.