Mayor Muriel Bowser, former Mayor Vincent Gray, Interim Police Chief Peter Newsham and two members of the City Council joined more than 200 people on Nov. 20 in participating in D.C.’s annual Transgender Day of Remembrance.
The event, held at the Metropolitan Community Church of Washington, commemorated the lives of transgender people who died at the hands of hate violence in the U.S. and abroad over the past year.
“Tonight we remember those who have lost their lives, those that came to this planet with a plan, with a talent, a gift,” said Rev. Dyan Abena McCray-Peters, pastor of D.C.’s Unity Fellowship Church.
McCray-Peters presided over the reading of the names of 21 transgender or gender non-conforming people who lost their lives in the U.S. in 2016 due to anti-transgender violence or prejudice.
“Some used their entire gift,” she said. “Some gifts were cut short. And we never ever want to forget those that walked among us that taught us great lessons – that loved us.”
One of the names read was that of Deeniquia “Dee Dee” Dodds, a 22-year-old transgender woman who was shot to death in Northeast Washington in July. D.C. police have charged two suspects with first-degree murder while armed in connection with the case.
Among those who participated in the reading of the names was lesbian activist and Human Rights Campaign official Candice Gingrich, the half-sister of former U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.
Others who participated in the event were veteran transgender activist Earline Budd, the lead organizer of the D.C. Trans Day of Remembrance; and trans activists Jessica Xavier, Alexa Rodriguez, Jerry Hughes, Ruby Corado, Sarah McBride, and Ashley Love.
“It was extraordinary as usual,” said Budd, who noted that more public officials attended the event this year than in any previous Trans Day of Remembrance in the District. “The turnout was great and probably even more than last year because of what happened in the election,” she said.
Budd was referring to remarks by Bowser and Gray, who won election on Nov. 8 to the D.C. Council seat he held before becoming mayor; and Council member David Grosso (I-At-Large), who each vowed that the city would not back down from its strong support for LGBT rights under the coming years of the presidency of Donald Trump.
“Almost a couple of weeks ago our world got turned on its head, didn’t it?” Bowser told the gathering. “Something happened that took our breath away that none of us were expecting,” she said, adding, “And now we’re scared to death, literally.”
Bowser said she’s been asked repeatedly how a Trump administration might impact D.C. and its long tradition of progressive economic and social policies and strong support for minorities and diversity.
“What does it mean for the people we are and the values we hold dear?” she asked. “And I know you’ve heard from everybody that will represent you that we are who we are in Washington, D.C. and it doesn’t matter who’s at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. We will fight for those values and we have to fight for those values.”
Bowser noted that if Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress repeal the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, as promised, the city would have to use its own funds to ensure that thousands of residents who could lose their health insurance policies will be cared for.
She, Gray and Grosso also vowed that D.C. would remain a “sanctuary” city that, like dozens of other U.S. cities, refuses to cooperate with federal immigration officials by not turning in the names of undocumented immigrants who could face deportation. Continuing that defiant policy under the Trump administration, Bowser said, could lead to a cutoff of federal funds for various programs, including education.
During the election campaign Trump threatened to cut off federal funds to sanctuary cities as part of his campaign promise to deport “illegal” immigrants, who he said should return to their home countries and legally apply to re-enter the U.S.
On the issue of anti-transgender violence, Bowser praised Interim Police Chief Newsham and the work of Sgt. Jessica Hawkins, an out trans woman who heads the department’s LGBT Liaison Unit. Hawkins was among those attending the event.
“Nobody because they are transgender should be targeted, abused or killed on our streets,” Bowser said.
Newsham pointed to a longstanding police policy and city law that prohibits all police officers and officials from taking part in politics or favoring one candidate over another.
“But we do have eyes and we do have ears,” he said. “And since the election we have seen and we have heard that people are scared. They are scared about what may happen in our country and particularly folks who are potentially the victims of hate,” he said. “And no one is more included to be the victim of hate than our transgender community.”
Among other things, Newsham said, the department is committed to “fair and un-biased and constitutional policing.” As long as he is in charge “every single member” of the department will be required to follow that policy, he said.
“We also are not going to tolerate hate in our community,” said Newsham. “We are not going to tolerate it from anyone.”
He added: “On behalf of the Metropolitan Police Department – the 3,700 members of our agency – I would like to extend our most sincere condolences to the families and to the friends of the victims we have lost in this city,” he said in referring to the trans victims of hate violence.
Gray mentioned the advances he helped bring about for transgender rights and trans-related health care and jobs programs during his tenure as mayor. He said he, too, is deeply troubled over the repercussions the city could face under a Trump administration.
“But you know what,” he said. “Our community, our folks have never lived and allowed fear to overcome us, have never allowed fear to defeat us. And we shouldn’t do that now,” he said. “This is just a call to fight, ladies and gentlemen.”
Grosso, newly elected Council member Robert White (D-At-Large) and Bowser each read separate D.C. Council passed and mayoral proclamations declaring Nov. 20 as Transgender Day of Remembrance in the District of Columbia.