Durango residents, city leaders and community members gathered virtually on Transgender Day of Remembrance on Friday to remember transgender lives lost because of violence.
The international, annual day of remembrance honors the memory of the transgender people who died in acts of anti-transgender violence.
This year, Durangoans joined together to remember 350 people.
“Paying homage to the lost lives of transgender people is vital to remember the severity transgender people face on a daily basis,” said Kassandra Carrasco-Gonzalez of Durango, who helped organize the event.
Transgender Day of Remembrance started in 1999 by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith as a vigil to honor the memory of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was killed in 1998.
The day capped off Transgender Awareness Week, which seeks to expand understanding of trans and gender nonbinary people. Durango City Council also made a proclamation honoring Durango’s transgender population during its Nov. 17 meeting.
Globally, 350 people were killed, according to Transrespect Versus Transphobia Worldwide. At least 37 transgender and gender nonconforming people in the U.S. were violently killed, reports the Human Rights Campaign. Most of the victims were Black or Latinx.
Since 2008, the number of cases recorded reached a total of 3,665 in 75 countries and territories worldwide. In the U.S., 89% of those killed were trans or gender-diverse people of color, according to the Transgender Murder Monitoring project.
The actual figures may be higher because these killings often go unreported or get misreported.
But Jude Harrington with Four STAR Durango, who helped organize the event, emphasized that each person needed to be remembered for who they were, not as a statistic.
“In particular for media coverage, it’s not really about the numbers,” Harrington said. “It’s looking at things that put transgender people at risk.”
That includes looking at the economic opportunities people have or are barred from and the anti-transgender sentiments that lead to hate crimes.
At the Durango event, attendees heard short biographies of some of those who died. They took a moment of silence for each person’s name of the 350 who died between Oct. 1, 2019, and Sept. 30, 2020.
For Spencer Dallas of Durango, seeing those names was the most impactful part of the event.
“Even though people might not see it in their personal lives, these murders do exist. Trans people do exist,” Dallas said. “We just want to exist. We’re not trying to fight or get more rights than other people. We just want the same rights.”
They also focused on current transgender leaders in fashion, boxing, comedy, politics and activism.
“Our work as a community does not end by providing a remembrance event,” Carrasco-Gonzalez said. “We need to enhance the prosperity of our transgender community in Durango. This is continuous practice and it takes direct action.”
The Durango event was organized by Fort Lewis College, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Durango and Four STAR Durango.
Community leaders from FLC Police, the Durango Business Improvement District and Durango City Council joined to show their support.
“It seems like we’ve come such a long way from the past, but people are still getting murdered for things out of their control,” Dallas said. “It means we still have a long ways to go.”