Names and places raise awareness on Transgender Day of Remembrance
Makelly Castro, 24, of Brazil; Ashley Sherman, 25, of the United States; and Rosa Syad Ribut, 35, of Canada were killed this year. All three were transgender women, having been assigned with a male sex at birth.
Their names were among the 139 listed at the A.D. Bruce Religion Center at the Transgender Day of Remembrance Saturday night, a collaboration between the University of Houston and the Houston Transgender Unity Community.
Monyque Queener, president of the Houston-based Transgender Foundation of America and organizer of the event, said the event was originally held on the steps of city hall.
The event was moved to the Holocaust Museum due to the long history of transgender and gender nonconforming people held in concentration camps. When the event grew too large for the museum five years ago, it was moved to the UH’s A.D. Bruce Religion Center.
“We really love this space,” Queener said. “We love having the reception, the chapel is beautiful and wonderful. It’s respectful without being overly religious; it just works really, really well.”
Transgender Day of Remembrance was spurred by the hate crime murder of Rita Hester, a black transgender woman, in 1998. Now, it’s celebrated internationally through vigils and memorials.
Associate Judge Phyllis Frye, the first transgender judge appointed in Texas, and Equality Texas legislative specialist Daniel Williams spoke at the event, both emphasizing the importance that the event has.
Frye emphasized that transgender rights have come a long way since she came out decades ago, but everyone agreed there is still a lot of work to be done.
“It’s easy to think, oh, HERO (passed), trans employment is big because the Equal Opportunity Commission said trans is really already covered,” Queener said. “You’re hearing all these successes, (but) we’re still losing a trans person to hate almost daily.”
Of the 139 names mentioned, most were women from Brazil, though there were some from Canada, England, the U.S. and Venezuela. Some were activists, such as Los Angeles-based Zoraida Reyes, or they gained a lot of media attention after their death, like Filipina Jennifer Laude. But many did not have accompanying photos, last names or even a name given at all. They were simply given a location and a cause and date of death.
“It’s a powerful event,” Queener said. “It can be pretty intense, so you’ve got to remember this is our opportunity to stand against (hate).”