Mhelody Polan Bruno is a name not many have heard of. She was a 25-year old transgender Filipina woman who was killed in regional New South Wales in 2019, because of her gender and sexual orientation. Anjana Hareesh was an Indian queer person who came out to her family in early 2020 and was promptly put in a “de-addiction centre”. After two months of suffering, she died by suicide. Sarah Hegazi, a queer Egyptian activist, was arrested after raising a rainbow flag in a concert in Cairo in 2017. She was assaulted verbally and sexually in prison by male inmates. Sarah died by suicide in mid- July 2020. Becky Reyna, Amy Griffiths, Ainee Khan are all names of transgender people lost to murder, police brutality, and transphobic violence in countries like Mexico, UK, and Pakistan. Their names float in a network of hashtags, and trans remembrance pages on social media.

To commemorate their deaths, Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is hosting an online event on Friday 7pm to mark Transgender Day of Remembrance. Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras has partnered with The Gender Centre, City of Sydney, Inner City Legal Centreand the Sex Worker Outreach Project to create a presentation and stream it live via Facebook and YouTube. The event has been curated by Bhenji Ra and features BIPOC transgender and gender-diverse performers, activists, and artists.

“It is important to acknowledge black indigenous people of colour in a way that we haven’t in the past,” said The Gender Centre. “There is a real mix of voices and really, the focus is on how BIPOC trans people cope with memorials, how they approach surviving in a world that is particularly hostile to BIPOC trans people, and also to celebrate their achievements and memorialise that as well.”

 The Gender Centre spoke about advising the event attendees on reaching out to them or accessing services like Lifeline in times of mental health crises.

“We have been very mindful that the isolation of trans people, which is usually pretty tough, is even worse in COVID-19. It is an unusual situation where you might be [present] at a memorial in your lounge room by yourself. It is important that the community is present with their friends, family, and ally to share the grief.”

“I think some folks are very ignorant and hope that the more people learn about trans and gender-diverse people, people will understand and be kinder. We will spread the word and hope that many people tune in for Trans Day of Remembrance on Friday. It’s sure to be a beautiful event to watch,” said Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras community on Facebook, in response to how this event can spread awareness about and counter transphobic violence.

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