Trans Day of Remembrance 2020: Honoring the 350 lives cut short this year

Every November 20, on Trans Day of Remembrance (TDoR), we remember those whose lives have been taken away through transphobic violence. This year’s Trans Murder Monitoring report from Transgender Europe shows the highest number of annual killings since the report was first published 12 years ago.

Trans Day of Remembrance was founded in 1999 and it is the day when we remember trans and gender-diverse people whose lives have been cut short. According to Trans Murder Monitoring by Transgender Europe (TGEU)350 people have been killed since November 2019, a rise of 6% since last year’s 331. Furthermore, the report shows an alarming and deeply worrying gradual increase per year between 2008 and 2020.

Because the number of unreported cases is unknown, this is only part of the story. What we know is that, globally, almost all the victims were trans women or trans feminine people. Over six in ten were sex workers, 38% of the murders took place on the street, and 22% were killed their own homes. In Europe, half of the victims were migrants.

People, not numbers

This is not just data and figures; these are real, vital, living people who had their lives taken away, people who like you had hopes and dreams, friends, family and people who cared for them. People like Valera, a housekeeper beaten to death in Chelyabinsk, Russia. Or Jessyca Sarmiento, a 38 year-old sex worker who was deliberately run-over by a car in Paris, France. Or 26 year-old Essi Granlund, stabbed to death in a killing that was described by the police as “an argument between two men.”

According to the report, 11 trans people were killed in Europe. You can find out who these people were here.

“Trans women often feel the disgust and misogyny of society, especially when we first transition,” Dinah de Riquet Bons and Sabrina Sanchez, board members of the International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe (ICRSE), wrote for ILGA-Europe’s blog last year. “Our bodies and behaviour dismantle binarism, rejecting the patriarchal privilege given to those bodies born with a penis. Embracing femininity makes us disposable; it sends us to the lowest rung on the societal ladder. We lose status, family, friends, communities, work, and possibilities to study. The most affected are those of us who have to struggle with intersectional racist discrimination because of our ethnic diversity.”

Exacerbated circumstances

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted us all, but especially those who were already vulnerable, and sex workers in particular. Growing racism and police brutality are also putting trans lives at greater risk, especially those of black and migrant women of colour, sex workers, young people and the economically disadvantaged. Our Rainbow Europe Map 2020 showed that only 16 countries in Europe and Central Asia have implemented hate crime law that expressly includes gender identity as an aggravating factor. This year, North Macedonia was the only country to extend protection from hate crime, after amending its Criminal Code to add sexual orientation and gender identity grounds.

3664 trans and gender-diverse people have been murdered worldwide between 2008 and 2020. We cannot lower that number but we can certainly do more to prevent it from increasing in the future. It begins with understanding that all lives are equally valuable, and that many trans lives are vulnerable. It begins with education. It begins with our societies taking responsibility for the protection and valuing of all lives, including the lives of vulnerable trans people.

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