Dozens of people gathered at Andrews Park Sunday night in honor of Transgender Day of Remembrance.
PFLAG Norman, Norman Pride, OU’s Gender + Equality Center and the OU LGBTQ+ Student Alliance organized a memorial for Transgender Day of Remembrance Sunday night. As Erin Simpson, the director of the GEC, read out the names of trans people who were killed this year, the crowd held small tea candles and stood in silence.
Transgender Day of Remembrance initially began in 1999 in honor of Rita Hester, a trans woman of color, after her violent death in 1998. Since then, it has evolved into a day of observance on Nov. 20 to honor trans and gender-nonconforming people who died from acts of violence.
“Today is a day to live without fear,” said Jerry Arias, president of PFLAG Norman. “Today, their lives are as important as every person on this earth.”
The Human Rights Center reported 32 trans and gender-nonconforming people were killed in 2022 as of November. The Human Rights Center also reported there were 59 total deaths in 2021, the highest number the organization has recorded since it began tracking the numbers in January 2013. The organization has recorded a total of 302 deaths.
The Human Rights Center reported Black trans women accounted for two-thirds of the total recorded victims. According to the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, trans women of color experience violence disproportionally to other groups, including those within the 2SLGBTQ+ community.
“Our hearts are broken,” Arias said. “We are devastated, traumatized and angry.”
Since 2013, 77 percent of victims were under 35, the Human Rights Center reported. Ten victims were under 18. In 2022, the youngest victim was 17 when they were killed.
Tate Hughes, a Norman Pride board member, spoke about recent legislation in Oklahoma centered around the trans community. He referenced Oklahoma House Bill 1007 and Senate Bill 3, the latter of which was passed in October, banning OU Health from providing certain gender-confirming programs. Hughes said it only leads to more pain for trans Oklahomans.
“It’s exhausting being transgender in Oklahoma,” Hughes said. “And we still have a lot of yelling to do.”