TDOR: Mourning our losses and galvanizing our communities

The first Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) was held in 1998, organized by transgender activist Gwendolyn Ann Smith. That first event was a vigil in honor Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was killed that year. The event became an international annual memorial commemorating the transgender people lost to violence during the year.

Nashville held its first TDOR observance in 2002.

The week leading up to the TDOR, November 14-20, 2015, has been marked by activists as Transgender Awareness Week, and more and more events are being organized annually to help bring light to the issues and conditions faced by transgender and gender non-conforming people.

For this year’s event, many groups participated in or helped organize TDOR, including TVals/TMen, the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition (TTPC), PFLAG Nashville, the Program for LGBTI Health at Vanderbilt, Vanderbilt University Divinity School’s Carpenter Program, Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee, the Vanderbilt University Office of LGBTQ Life, the Tennessee Transgender Journey Project (TNTJ), and others.

Marisa Richmond of the TTPC said, at the Nashville event, that “Since the last Day of Remembrance, when we gathered in this very space in November of 2014, the United States has lost twenty-two more people, and we will be remembering each and every one of them tonight.” Brazil, Richmond said, lost fifty-six people in the same period. Worldwide, “these individuals come from all age groups, ranging from 66-year-old Casey Haggard … to Michael Lucas de Almeida Reginald of Brazil, who was only thirteen years old when they were beaten and stabbed to death….”

Richmond also reminded the audience that in Tennessee the community faces significant obstacles in the fight to change the conditions that lead to violence. “Just this spring alone, members of the Tennessee House of Representatives stood on the floor making jokes over the idea of ‘stomping a mud hole in a transgender woman.’” Later Richmond would speak to the current steps people could take to actively support the community, such as opposing the "bathroom bill" likely to be introduced by Bud Hulsey in the General Assembly next session.

LaSaia Wade of the TNTJ spoke rousingly of the particular difficulties facing trans women of color, and called for increasing attention to their plight. Pride Board member Sean Arroyo addressed the need for solidarity within the community and for building bridges with allies of all stripes.

During the open mic period, local drag entertainer Veronika Electronika spoke of her connection to the trans community, and in particular the way she has been impacted by hearing the story of Christian Paige, who was killed twenty years ago and has since laid in an unmarked grave at Nashville’s Woodlawn Cemetery. Veronika announced that she would be spearheading an effort to raise money for a gravestone to honor Christian’s memory.

This year TDOR events were held across the state of Tennessee. While only lists events in Nashville, Knoxville, and Cordova, the TTPC announced on November 17 that additional events would be held in at least Chattanooga, Johnson City, and Gray.

For more information on the effort to fund a gravestone for Christian Paige, visit







Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash

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