Vanderbilt vigil honors Transgender Day of Remembrance Nov. 20

Eight years ago, Rita Hester, a popular figure in Boston's rock 'n roll scene, became a victim of transphobic violence when she was found stabbed to death in her Brighton, Mass., apartment.

A local community of more than 250 queer activists, rockers, family, friends and allies came together and held a speak-out and candlelight vigil in Hester’s honor. One year later, a memorial vigil was held in San Francisco; the following year Boston and a few other cities joined in. This year, hundreds of observances will be held in dozens of countries.

In Nashville, a candelight vigil will be held on the campus of Vanderbilt University Thursday, Nov. 20, honoring the 10th annual Transgender Day of Rememberance. The vigil is sponsored by Vanderbilt's Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Instersex (LGBTQI) Life.

The free event begins at 6 p.m. in All Faith Chapel with a memorial for those killed because of anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. The chapel is located directly beneath the university’s Benton Chapel at 444  21st Ave. South. Following the memorial, attendees will march with lighted candles to Vanderbilt’s K.C. Potter Center for a celebration of life.

During the last decade, one person per month has died because of transgender-based hate or prejudice, according to Brett Genny Beemyn, author of the forthcoming book, The Lives of Transgender People. 

In Tennessee, three transgendered women have been killed in the past three years, all in Memphis. Duanna Johnson, who was preparing to sue Memphis police after a beating, was shot to death on Nov. 9. Ebony Whitaker was murdered on July 1 and Tiffany Berry was murdered on February 16, 2006.

The Office of LGBTQI Life at Vanderbilt provides support and is a place of affirmation for individuals of all identities as well as a resource for information about gender and sexuality.

The office serves all members of the Vanderbilt community – students, faculty, staff and alumni – by creating educational, cultural and social opportunities. The office also supports and advises LGBTQI-related campus groups and activities.

For more information about the candlelight vigil, call 615-322-3330.

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Nurse Practitioner Ari Kravitz

When I started medical transition at 20 years old, it was very difficult to get the care I needed for hormone replacement therapy because there are very few providers trained in starting hormones for trans people, even though it’s very similar to the hormones that we prescribe to women in menopause or cisgender men with low testosterone.

I hope more providers get trained in LGBTQ+ healthcare, so they can support patients along their individual gender journey, and provide the info needed to make informed decisions about their body. I’ve personally seen my trans patients find hope and experience a better quality of life through hormone replacement therapy.

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