web_candlelightvigilLIVES of trans people lost to violence and suicide will be honoured with Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) to be marked today for the fifteenth time since the day of commemoration was launched in the late 1990s in memory of a trans person murdered in the USA.

The first TDoR was held in 1998 in the US state of Massachusetts following the still-unsolved murder of transgender African-American woman, Rita Hester. A candlelight vigil initiated by trans activist Gwen Smith a week after Hester’s death saw about 250 people attend.

Since then, TDoR is now observed in about 200 cities and around 20 countries each year on November 20 to highlight the loss of life due to bigotry and discrimination.

In Sydney this year, the Newtown Neighbourhood Centre will play host from 7pm for a free community event and vigil to mark TDoR while later this week on November 22, an official event held by the Gender Centre will take place inside NSW Parliament House with NSW Police LGBTI spokesperson, Superintendent Tony Crandell, to act as keynote speaker.

Commemorating this year’s TDoR, the National LGBTI Health Alliance noted it was just as important to remember the lives of transgender people lost to suicide as well as physical violence by others.

“Despite recent legislative gains, trans people in Australia continue to experience harassment, vilification, isolation and distress,” Talbot said.

“Trans people who are not able to express their gender safely – whether due to lack of medical treatment or social stigma – are at significantly higher risk of suicide.”

Current research suggests that trans people have suicide rates of at least 14 times higher than other Australians while many members of the trans community continue to experience discrimination in employment, health care, housing and other aspects of daily life.

“Trans Day of Remembrance reminds us of the destructive consequences that can occur when trans people are excluded or mistreated,” Talbot said.

“TDoR provides an opportunity for us to reaffirm our commitment to promoting resilience and dignity for trans people by adopting and implementing non-discriminatory policies”

Kelly Glanney, spokesperson for trans support and advocacy group Carmen Rupe Memorial Trust, told the Star Observer that in just the last 12 months, the Trans Murder Monitoring project had recorded a total of 238 cases of ‘reported killings’ of trans people in 26 countries. The majority of victims are trans women.

“It’s not uncommon for members of our community to have experienced the loss of dozens of friends to violence, to suicide and other forms self harm – I’ve personally lost four trans friends in the past year,” she said.

“It’s not always easy to convey just how devastating this can actually be, especially for a community already deeply traumatised by decades of discrimination and social isolation.”

The CRMT plans to open a community centre in Surry Hills in early 2014 aimed at helping transgender people and their allies. Glanney said while that is expected to be a step in a positive direction in catering to the needs of the city’s transgender population, more help is required from all sections of society.

“More resources and support is desperately needed, not just from government but also from the private sector as well individuals,” she said.

“We’re looking for anyone willing help our community to develop the social infrastructure and resources required to more effectively address these challenges.”

INFO: A community event to mark Transgender Day of Remembrance will take place tonight at Newtown Neighbourhood Centre from 7pm.

Anyone interested in attending the official event inside Parliament House on November 22, should contact Kelly Glanney on 0452 454 965.

If you or someone you know needs help, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or the Gay and Lesbian Counselling Service on Evening Support line: 02 8594 9596 or 1800 184 527 (regional callers) – open daily 5:30pm-10:30pm.

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