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Transgender Day of Remembrance

Transgender Day of Remembrance occurs annually on Nov. 20. It is a day to memorialize those who have been killed or murdered as the result of transphobia (hatred or fear of transgender and gender non-conforming/non-binary people). We also remember those who died as a result of suicide. This day serves to bring attention to the continued violence and non-acceptance endured by the transgender community, which we see at an alarming new rate emanating from the federal government against its own people.

Currently, Transgender Day of Remembrance is observed in cities across the U.S. and in more than 20 countries globally. In the preceding 12-month period (Dec. 1, 2019 to Nov. 1, 2020) in the United States alone, at least 37 people have been brutally murdered with an additional six people in Puerto Rico, for a total of 43. Globally, this number is over 300 people, with Brazil leading with the greatest death count. These people were violently killed just for living their authentic lives as transgender or gender non-conforming/non-binary. A disproportionate majority are transgender women of color. It is time to stop this violence, hate and senseless death! It is time to celebrate the wide range of gender diversity many Americans and especially many New Yorkers share.

We often confuse a person’s sex with their gender. A person’s sex is determined by their physical anatomy at birth. Gender is how we see and think of ourselves, our internal sense of self, how we express who we are to other people around us.

In our culture, we quantify sex and gender as a binary of possibilities — male-masculine or female-feminine, with little room for variation in between. Transgender and gender non-conforming/non-binary, and intersex individuals transcend or cross over these traditional sex and gender boundaries. We view life not in a strict male-masculine or female-feminine binary concept but rather a much fuller, richer continuum of possibilities across a variety of sex and gender-related spectrums.

In recent years, the current federal administration continues its onslaught against our community. At most federal agencies (Department of Education, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Labor and many others), hard-fought rights and protections were either rolled back, rescinded or not enforced for members of our community, leaving our already marginalized community with a greater sense of disparity, inequity and hardship in accessing needed medical-behavioral health care, employment, education and other vital services we need to survive on a daily basis.

Suicide continues to be a constant concern in the transgender community. Those who completed, attempted or considered suicide account for approximately 41% of our members. Over 50% of transgender youth under the age of 20 have considered or attempted suicide. The suicide rate amongst the general population currently resides at less than 5%! The reasons for these deaths vary with each individual person. Major contributing factors include non-acceptance by parents, spouses and family members, bullying and harassment in schools, places of employment, places of religious worship and non-acceptance by society in general. Clearly the numbers referenced above are unacceptable to a society that is supposed to welcome and support diversity amongst all people.

The transgender community is continuing to make ourselves known and visible in modern society and in daily life. We are demanding our place in society in terms of health and mental health care, employment, education in schools for our K-12 children, teens and college age youth and every other aspect of daily life.

If we are to live in a modern, progressive society, should we not welcome and accept all people regardless of sex, race, ethnicity, ability or disability status, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, along with all the other protected groups of people who reside in this state?

The Transgender Day of Remembrance commemoration service is a free Zoom virtual event on Friday, Nov. 20 beginning at 7 p.m. Register in advance for this event: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZ0tdemrpz0iG9Bs7E3ORXM19tbMZXas96jy.

Co-sponsors for this event include Adirondack Unitarian Universalist Community, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Plattsburgh, LGBTQI+ Resource Committee SUNY Plattsburgh, SUNY Potsdam, Clarkson University, Adirondack Diversity Initiative, Behavioral Health Services North, Saranac Lake Youth Center, North Country Community College, Paul Smith’s College and Adirondack North Country Gender Alliance.

Kelly Metzgar lives in Saranac Lake and is the executive director of the Adirondack North Country Gender Alliance.

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