Trans Day of Remembrance: make it effective, accessible, and sensitive

Friday 03-11-2017 - 16:40

NUS Trans Officer, Jess Bradley, offers guidance to support you to organise Trans Day of Remembrance events that are effective, accessible, and culturally sensitive. 

Trans Day of Remembrance (Monday 20 November) is an important date in the trans activist calendar, where we remember those we have lost due to anti-trans violence. Many student and community groups choose to organise TDOR memorials around this time to mark the day. Here is our guide to organising effective, accessible, and culturally sensitive TDOR events.

Centre the voices of trans women of colour and trans sex workers
The majority of people who are killed through anti-trans violence each year are trans women or trans feminine people of colour. Most are working class, and many of them are sex workers. It's important to recognise that transphobia, transmisogyny, racism, poverty, and whorephobia intersect to create a world in which some people are more vulnerable to violence than others. TDOR ceremonies should centre the voices and experiences of trans people who are more at risk of this violence. Consider inviting speakers who experience racialised transmisogyny or are trans sex workers. Make sure you remunerate them for their labour.

Think about who is in your organising team
Because anti-trans violence impacts more on trans women and trans feminine people, trans people of colour, working class trans people, and trans sex workers, it is people from these groups who should, if they are willing and able to, take a political lead in organising TDOR activities. If you don’t experience transmisogyny, racism, or whorephobia, think about taking more supportive/background roles in the event.
Often TDOR events have a list of names and photos of people that have been killed over the last year. Compiling lists like these can be quite emotionally heavy work. Consider giving tasks like these to cis allies who are more likely to be less emotionally affected by doing this work.

These deaths are not just a “trans issue”
We do not live single issue lives. The people who are killed through anti-trans violence were not just trans people; they are women, non-binary, black, brown, sex workers. They also lived full lives beyond their intersecting oppressions. Make sure you invite your local feminist society, black students group, and sex worker collective to both the organising meetings as well as the memorial itself.

Take time to learn how to pronounce people’s names
Many people who are killed through anti-trans violence come from places where English is not the native language. Many TDOR ceremonies involve a recital of the names of people who have been killed. Often people who only speak English might struggle to pronounce the names of people killed and the places where they lived.

Trans people often struggle hard to claim their names, so mispronouncing them can seem disrespectful. Consider asking a trans person from the countries where people have died to help with the recital. If you can’t find someone, take the time to learn how to pronounce people’s names properly – there will be plenty of people on campus who might be able to help (check out any language societies, international students' groups, language teachers, etc.).

Don’t objectify the violence of trans peoples deaths
Many TDOR ceremonies read out the cause of death alongside the names and places where people lived as part of the recital. This often has the effect of objectifying the violent nature of those deaths for an audience who is often not as likely to experience this violence. When we do this, sometimes it seems like we are remembering an act of violence rather than people with wants, needs, and full lives of their own. Consider not including the cause of death within the recital itself. Remember if individual people find it useful to view this information, it is freely available online.

Think about how to positively support trans people of colour and trans sex workers
Some US trans women of colour organise around TDOR under the banner of “give us roses whilst we are still alive”. By doing so, they point out how mainstream trans organisations spend a  lot of time discussing trans people of colour’s deaths and less about supporting them to live. Think about how to positively support trans people of colour and trans sex workers, not just at TDOR, but all year round. Consider fundraising for the following organisations, or researching other appropriate groups to donate to:

Action for Trans Health – they have a ringfenced fund to give financial support to trans people of colour (UK based)

Any of these support groups for LGBT+ / Trans people of colour listed in Sabah Choudrey’s guide to supporting trans people of colour (UK based)

Miss Major’s Giving Circle – raises money for Miss Major’s healthcare and housing costs in her elder years. Miss Major is a trans woman of colour who is a veteran of the Stonewall Riots and spent her life supporting previously incarcerated trans women  (US based).

Be mindful of the emotional impact of the occasion, don’t give too much work to trans people
Many organisations choose to use TDOR or the week in the run-up to it as an opportunity to release trans related information or to do other trans-related work (such as running Trans Awareness Weeks). Be mindful that TDOR can be a very emotional time for trans people, and organising memorial events can be difficult to do. As such, think about whether the trans people in your local group, campus or community might be better served by spreading out the amount of work, campaigns and other events so they don’t all fall in one very busy and emotionally intense time.

Think about access
Think about the wider access issues of your event. Is the venue wheelchair accessible? Does it have access to gender-neutral toilets? What are the acoustics like? Have a think about designing the memorial event with access in mind: will it involve long periods of standing in the cold? If so, consider moving it indoors.

Make time to be sad
Remember that the purpose of a TDOR memorial is to take time to remember those we have lost, and reflect on how we can support our trans siblings to live. As such, it might be appropriate to allocate some time within your event to for quiet reflection.

Organising a TDOR event can be stressful, busy and hectic. So make sure you book in time for yourselves to be able to process your emotions and decompress without having a million and one things to do. If you'd like to get in touch about TDOR where you are or any other work you're doing for trans liberation, I'm always happy to chat:

Love, rage and solidarity, 

Jess Bradley, 
NUS Trans Officer 


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