Trans Day of Remembrance, occurring annually on November 20, represents one day in the course of the year that we, as transgender persons, intentionally set aside time and space to gather in communal remembering of those persons in our vast and diverse community we have lost to the violence of intolerance and hatred. We come together—trans persons, loved ones, and allies—surrounded by the spirits of our fallen, and we lift our voices to speak their names, honoring them and holding hope for a day we no longer add names to the list. It is, for us, a particular kind of All Souls Day: one that reminds us of the tender precariousness of our lives.
Some of us invoke the presence of our gender-diverse ancestors. Some of us sing songs of hope as well as lament. Many of us light candles and keep silence. Some of us pray. Some of us keep vigil in the space of our own homes because we do not have safe spaces of spiritual respite and sanctuary.
But all of us, in some way, are aware that the day is passing—and we are aware of all the fearful misunderstanding, intolerance, and oppression that serve to make a day of remembrance necessary.
As faith communities seeking to stand in solidarity with us, hoping to create open sanctuary for us, you may not have had time to plan and offer an organized Trans Day of Remembrance. But, there are still things you can do to demonstrate your awareness that our daily living is fragile and that you wish to offer us love and support. Here are some seemingly small, but no less powerful things you can do to stand with us in lament, hope, and belief that the ethic of love can be made real among us and lead us all to better, safer, more accepting days.
Things to keep in mind:
- Whatever you decide to do, please remember that it is important, wherever possible, to call upon transgender persons in your midst, to ask them what gestures, litanies, rituals, or prayers they will feel are important, meaningful, and appropriate; wherever possible, invite them to design and/or lead such movements in your worship and/or prayer. We are best helped by being offered space and being allowed to lead for and speak for ourselves.
- Recognizing that individuals have varying degrees of comfort being out, speaking in public, or otherwise participating openly in trans-specific activities, be sensitive to inviting, allowing and supporting various ways of being involved or contributing to whatever forms of remembrance you engage. Not everyone is out. Further, like all people, some of us are shy or prefer to work behind the scenes.
- Be aware of and sensitive to avoiding ways of inviting participation that may be perceived or experienced as tokenizing or exploiting trans persons among you.
- Avoid designing a ritual or writing a prayer yourself and then calling upon a person in your midst you assume is “out” and asking them to perform the ritual or read the prayer;
- Avoid asking a trans person to do something that places them in the position of speaking for or representing the entire trans population; ask us for personal stories, perspectives, or ideas instead;
- Avoid simply deciding and announcing what should be done to commemorate TDOR and, instead, ask those whom you know (rather than assume) to be trans persons what they think would be appropriate.
- Please remember that we are a long-oppressed and negated people and, in these times especially, we are often equally tokenized, fetishized and exploited, thus we are often and variously traumatized by or at least uncomfortable with folks seeking to help us as intent does not always mean positive impact; please bear this in mind and be sensitive to language and action in whatever activities you engage around TDOR.
- Sexism and racism are most often deeply intertwined with transphobia and this is made clear in who is targeted the most often. Please be sure to remember, name, and act in accordance with the reality that ending violence against trans people inherently means we must also be working to end racism and sexism.
Things you can do:
- Simply list, in your bulletin/order of worship, the names of transgender persons lost to us in the past year and highlight this remembrance with a prayer written by trans persons in the community or a traditional prayer – Names can be found here: https://tdor.info/ (names are listed, alphabetically, by country
- If you utilize media in your services, consider posting a list of US names and allow them to remain on-screen during your communal prayer, time of celebrations and concerns, etc.
- If you have known trans persons in your congregation or community who would be willing to do so, invite them to share a moment of witness at some point in your regular service; combine this creatively with other suggestions, such as listing the names in the bulletin or projecting them during your communal prayer. Consider other ways to invite trans persons to express their personal ways of enacting remembrance, such as: bringing in the light at the start of service; reading the names at the start of your communal prayer; performing a song during worship (we are often talented folks!); or even, offering the word during service.
- If you have a chapel area (or space that could be transformed appropriately), consider blocking out a period of time for having the chapel open to those who would like to pray and/or light candles in remembrance; if possible, identify trans persons or active allies to be available as prayer partners in the space
- If you do know whether you have trans persons in your midst (though you quite likely do) but want show signs of welcoming invitation, consider taking an evening to show a trans-educational film or documentary (such as “Call Me Malcolm,” or other trans-person-acted, trans-positive film) followed by a time of community discussion
- Look for, advertise, support, and attend a Trans Day of Remembrance service already taking place in your community. View the list of events here: tdor events
Liam Hooper lives in the deep south with his wife, Diana, a freelance publishing professional who keeps his calendar in line, and their teenage son, who keeps them on their toes.