‘This is not a celebration’
ANCGA marks Transgender Day of Remembrance with online memorial
A small group of people gathered over Zoom on Sunday afternoon for a Transgender Day of Remembrance memorial hosted by the Adirondack North Country Gender Alliance, a non-profit organization that serves LGBTQ-plus people in Franklin, Essex and Clinton counties.
The Transgender Day of Remembrance, which was started by Gwendoyn Ann Smith in 1999 to memorialize the murder of transgender woman Rita Hester, is now observed internationally. Though the actual day of remembrance is on Nov. 20, ANCGA chose to host its memorial event a day early so that more people could attend.
“This is not a celebration,” said ANCGA Executive Director Kelly Metzgar, of Saranac Lake. “This is a commemoration of all the people who were murdered viciously and violently in the last 12 months, so from Nov. 21 of last year to Nov. 20 of this year. It’s a commemoration of the people who died, so it’s really not a celebration. It’s a memorial, and it’s not an easy event to come to. We’ll be talking about domestic violence, and domestic violence in its extreme — i.e. murder. We’ll be talking about suicide and suicide prevention.”
This year’s memorial honored the lives of 44 transgender people — a list compiled from the Human Rights Campaign, Trans Lives Matter and Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents. Members of ANCGA read biographical details about each person — including victims of the Club Q mass shooting, which happened on Transgender Day of Remembrance last year — as slides with photos of the victims of violence were shown.
“It’s important to say the names and show the pictures and tell the stories of these people, so that’s going to be a big part of our program,” Metzgar said. “These people had faces, they had families, they had siblings. So, we want to portray them as people who were loved and viciously murdered just or trying to be themselves, trying to life their authentic lives. So this is not really an easy, fun event to come to, but it’s one that is very necessary.”
According to the Human Rights Campaign, 88% of transgender victims of violence were people of color this year. Most are also women — since HRC began monitoring violence against transgender people in 2013, around four in five of the victims they identified were women.
“While the details of these cases differ, it is clear that fatal violence disproportionately affects transgender women of color — particularly Black transgender women — and that the intersections of racism, sexism, homophobia, bi-phobia, transphobia and unchecked access to guns conspire to deprive them of employment, housing, healthcare and other necessities,” Metzgar said.
In 2023, 73% of transgender victims of violence were killed with a gun, and 47% were killed by a romantic/sexual partner, family member or friend.
Kaitlyn Goodwin, an emergency response advocate at Stop Domestic Violence Behavioral Health Services North, said that there are some aspects of intimate partner violence that are shared between all victims, and some that are unique to transgender victims, including the threat of being publicly outed, stigma around same-sex domestic violence and the possibility of the victim being ostracized after seeking help.
This year’s Transgender Day of Remembrance came as anti-trans rhetoric and legislation are on the rise across the United States. HRC declared its first national state of emergency for LGBTQ-plus people in June, citing more than 75 national laws — including drag show bans and legislation attempting to ban or limit gender-affirming care.
Gender-affirming care encompasses a wide range of services that help transgender people. This does not always mean hormone therapy, surgery or other interventions that help transgender people physically transition, but also social and mental health services that help address the symptoms of gender dysphoria.
According to HRC, 22 states have passed bans on gender-affirming care for those younger than 18. In some states, practitioners can be charged with a felony for administering gender-affirming care. Some states — Oklahoma, Texas and South Carolina — have also considered banning gender-affirming care for those younger than 26. Opponents of gender-affirming care typically cite it as unnecessary or harmful for minors and often focus heavily on medical care that aids physical transitions. The first U.S. gender-affirming care ban — the “Save Adolescents from Experimentation Act,” passed in Arkansas in 2021 over the veto of then-governor Asa Hutchinson — said “even among people who have undergone inpatient gender reassignment procedures, suicide rates, psychiatric morbidities, and morality rates remain markedly elevated above the background population.” The act banned all gender transition procedures, including gender reassignment surgeries and hormone therapy.
According to a 2020 study by The Trevor Project in the Journal of Adolescent Health, transgender and nonbinary youth are more than two times as likely to experience depressive symptoms, seriously consider suicide and attempt suicide as compared to their cisgender peers in the queer community. Research has demonstrated that access to gender-affirming care can drastically reduce this statistic. The American Medical Association said in 2021 that “improved body satisfaction and self-esteem following the receipt of gender-affirming care is protective against poorer mental health” in transgender people.” A federal judge struck down the Arkansas ban after the ACLU of Arkansas challenged it, citing medical statistics like the AMA’s.
Aleacia Landon, Saranac Lake Youth Center board president, said that 41% of LGBTQ-plus young people have “seriously considered” suicide in the past year. However, LGTBQ youth who have affirming homes, communities and care report better mental health — making allies ever-important.
Though none of the people memorialized by ANCGA Sunday were from the North Country and New York has not enshrined any anti-trans legislation, Metzgar said that Transgender Day of Remembrance is an important commemoration for the local community.
“We have a lot of LGBTQ people, families and youth here in the North Country. A lot of those families and youth are trans, non-binary, gender non-conforming,” she said. “So, it’s an important day. These people died or were killed, and that’s important. We need to remember them, who they are, and it brings us together with a broader national and international community, as well.”
ANCGA’s memorial was recorded and will be available to watch online at a later date.