Today, Nov. 20, marks the 16th annual International Transgender Day of Remembrance. On this most important day on the transgender calendar, we memorialize and celebrate the lives of those transgender and gender-nonconforming persons who were murdered this past year simply because of their gender identities. We also honor the lives of all trans people who ended their own lives by suicide because they just could not bear to go on in the face of the emotional and/or physical violence brought about by transphobia.
During this year's Transgender Day of Remembrance vigils, trans people and cisgender allies around the world will read the names of some of the 226 transgender and gender-nonconforming people whose murders this year stand as a stark reminder of the fear and hatred of trans people that still exists in many parts of our global society. This fear and hatred fill the hearts of those who cannot accept or understand that each person has the right to live in accordance with their true gender identity, as their true selves. These 226 people, identified by Transgender Europe's Trans Murder Monitoring Project, are just a fraction of the total number of trans deaths, because trans murders often go uninvestigated and unreported.
While this day is a solemn day of remembrance, it is important that we also celebrate the fact that trans folks are a resilient people. We gather together, transgender people and cisgender allies alike, to care for one another, to advocate for one another, to continue to rise up, to live our lives in dignity and truth, and to bring about change in our society.
According to GLAAD's "Transgender and Media Education Program," less than 10 percent of Americans say they know a trans person, while 90 percent say they know someone who is lesbian, gay, or bisexual. A positive way for our trans community to work for change, bring an end to the violence against us, and achieve progress in the struggle for civil rights is for us to be out and tell our stories, and for our allies to share the good news.
In spite of the public invisibility of our community, remarkable advances have been made since 2010 in moving toward justice for trans people in the United States.
National media coverage has focused on trans people in positive ways, and TIME has referred to this year as the "Transgender Tipping Point," calling transgender equality "America's Next Civil Rights Frontier."
Significant action has been taken by President Obama and his administration in the areas of trans health care, employment discrimination, facilitating the obtaining of proper gender markers on government-issued documents, and education. Trans people have many reasons to hope that justice will come during our lifetimes.
But there is still so much work to be done.
We are working to pass state and local laws that provide basic protections around gender identity. Many states make it difficult for trans people to have their proper gender markers displayed on drivers' licenses. Trans people experience federal barriers to immigration. In many states the prison system still houses trans people in unsafe conditions specific to their birth-assigned sex, or in solitary confinement. Profiling by law enforcement is common in urban areas, especially in the case of trans women of color, who are often arrested because of suspected sex work. Bullying in schools based on perceptions of gender identity is a serious problem. According to the 2011 report "Injustice at Every Turn," attempted suicides occur at a rate of 41 percent in the trans community, and nearly 50 percent of trans individuals suffer from depression. Among the trans population, unemployment, poverty, and homelessness occur at rates above the national average.
As we continue to work for change, we trust that Martin Luther King Jr. was correct when he said, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice."