Vigil mourns ‘deadliest year in the transgender community’

Milford. The TriVersity Center for Gender & Sexual Diversity brought the community together to grieve and to “shine a light on hatred, no matter how unbearable that may feel.”

24 Nov 2020 | 01:06

Anti-trans violence. Transphobia.

“Downright meanness,” is what Steven Teague, president of the TriVersity Center for Gender & Sexual Diversity called it. He addressed those who came, bundled up against the cold, to commemorate the Transgender Day of Remembrance, on the lawn of Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Milford.

“The amount of hatred in this world is stupefying, and having to acknowledge that hatred, like we’re doing here tonight, can feel downright unbearable,” Teague said.

He wanted everyone to hold tealight candles to summon “all the love we can muster, to shine a light on hatred, no matter how unbearable that may feel.” Shining a light on hatred exposes and eradicates it, he said. “That’s love to the highest power,” he said, “and for that, I am grateful for the day and for all of you.”

TriVersity’s vice president, Simone Kraus, talked about the many transgender people who have been murdered in the United States. “So even with ridicule, and being treated like a pariah in society, to family abandonment and being disowned, and with the possibility of being murdered for solely living our truth when we step out of our front door and into society, is the reason why Transgender Day of Remembrance is our most sacred day to my community,” she said.

Kraus said 353 transgender people were killed worldwide in 2020. They were suffocated and burned alive. The average age was 31 and the youngest only 15 years old. Twenty two percent of murdered transgender people were killed in their own homes. In Central and South America there were 287 such deaths, 152 of them in Brazil. Because many hate crimes and murders go unreported, the true number of deaths could be far higher, Kraus said. “America saw the most violent year against trans people ever recorded,” she said.

Kraus read the names of those who lost their lives to violence, describing them as their friends remembered them (see list with this article).

“Sadly, 2020 has seen too many transgender or gender non-conforming murders,” she said. “This has been the deadliest year in the transgender community.”

Father Van Bankston, rector of Good Shepherd Church, recited his Transgender Day of Remembrance prayer:

God of creation, Your creative power of life is ever before us in all its diversity.

God of Love, you weep with us in our grief and fear.

As we observe Transgender Day of Remembrance,

We pray for You to enfold in Your loving embrace

All those in our trans community whose precious lives have been cut short by fear, hatred, and violence

Because they were perceived to be different,

Because they had the courage to live their lives with truth, integrity, and openness,

Because they did not conform to someone else’s view of how they should live.

We remember and give thanks for the seasons of their lives,

For the love and friendship, they shared

And the ways in which they live their lives has been a gift to us all.

God of Peace, give comfort to all who mourn.

Give courage to our trans communities in the face of cruelty and harassment.

Challenge us, O God, to speak out for those who are silenced,

To stand with those who are bullied,

And to go with those who face danger.

God of Wonder, You are beyond gender.

You made each of us in your image.

Be with us today and always as we long for a day when every individual is safe and known and honored.

We ask this in Your Holy Name, who brings us all together in one human family.

Amen

At the conclusion of the evening, people talked in clusters of three or four. Many said they had no idea how horrible the crimes were, how pervasive the hate. One woman thanked Kraus for spotlighting the horror of the problem.

A man said, “TriVersity people take all the hate and transform it into hope and love.”

In remembrance
Yashira Nesby, 33, was murdered Dec. 19, 2019, in New York. She was a loved member of the New York ball scene. Family and friends said she was a good spirit, a genuinely good person, and she would put a smile on anyone’s face.
Mia Penny, 26, was murdered in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 29 2019.
Dustin Parker, 25, was murdered early New Year’s Day in McAlester, Oklahoma. He was an equality activist and worked as a taxi driver. He leaves behind a wife and four children.
Neulisa Luciano Ruiz was murdered in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, on Feb. 24. She was killed hours after someone called Police saying Ruiz was using the women’s bathroom at a McDonald’s restaurant.
Yampi Mendez Arocho, 19, was murdered in Moca, Puerto Rico, on March 5.
Monika Diamond, 34, was murdered in Charlotte North Carolina on March 18. She was active in the Charlotte nightlife community. She was also co-CEO of the International Mother of the year Pageantry System, a pageant that honors LGBTQ mothers.
Lexi, 33, was stabbed to death in Harlem on March 28. She was known for her giving beautiful heart and spirit.
Johanna Metzger, 25, was stabbed to death in Baltimore on April 11. She was known for her love of music and was self taught playing multiple instruments.
Penelope Diaz Ramirez, 31, was killed in Puerto Rico on April 13.
Serena Angelique Velazquez Ramos, 32, was from Queens, N.Y. She was murdered April 21 alongside her friend, whom she was visiting in Las Piedras, Puerto Rico.
Layla Peláez Sanchez, 21, was killed April 21 alongside her friend Serena who was visiting her in Las Piedras, Puerto Rico. Both women were shot and their car set on fire.
Nina Pop, 28, was stabbed to death in Sikeston, Missouri, on May 6. She was deeply loved by family, friends and community. Friends said she only wanted to make others happy.
Helle Jae O’Regan, 20, was killed May 6. She often spoke out against injustice, including the LGBTQ inequality that exists.
Jayne Thompson was killed on May 9 in Mesa County, Colorado, and was misgendered in initial reports.
Tony McDade, 38, was killed in Tallahassee, Florida on May 27. His friends and family shared how he was an energetic, giving person with a big heart.
Selena Reyes-Hernandez, 37, was killed in Chicago, on May 31.
Dominique Rem’mie’ Fells, 27, was killed and her dismembered body was found floating in the Schuylkill River on June 9 in Philadelphia.
Riah Milton, 25, was killed in Liberty Township, Ohio, on June 9. In March she had posted her status, “Never been scared to struggle. I’m getting it eventually.”
Brian “Egypt” Powers, 43, was killed in Akron, Ohio, on June 13. He worked at a local catering company and was remembered for wearing long colorful braids — “Unicorn Braids,” as he called them.
Brayla Stone, 17, was found killed in Little Rock, Arkansas, on June 25. Brayla was a child of trans experience. She was a person of color who had hopes and dreams, plans and community.
Merci Mack, 22, was killed in Dallas, Texas, on June 30. Her loved ones shared how beautiful of a friend she was. She had recently posted that she enjoyed baking and was looking forward to returning to work.
Shaki Peters, 32, was killed in Amite City, Louisiana, on July 1.
Bree Black, 27, was killed in Pompano Beach, Florida, on July 3.
Summer Taylor, 24, was killed in Seattle, Washington, on July 9.
Marilyn Cazares, 22, was killed in Brawley, California, on July 13. She loved to sing and dance, and she never bothered anyone.
Dior H Ova, also known as Tiffany Harris, 26, was stabbed to death in the Bronx. She listed one of her careers as a personal shopper.
Queasha D. Hardy, 22, was killed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. on July 27. She was a hairstylist and was extremely loved. Her friends describe her as loyal, loving and always smiling. She was “The life of the Party,” truly one of a kind.
Aja Raquell Rhone-Spears, 34, was stabbed to death in Portland, Oregon, on July 28. She studied at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She was owner and founder of International Barbie, a Portland-based clothing brand.
Kee Sam, 24, was killed in Lafayette, Louisiana, on Aug. 12.
Aerrion Burnett, 37, shot to death in Independence, Missouri, on Sept. 19. Her friends and family shared “If you wanted to have a good day, and you needed to smile, Aerrion was the person you wanted by your side.”
Mia Green, 29, was killed in Philadelphia on Sept. 28. Her friends and family shared how “her smile was so perfect and so contagious.”
Michelle Michellyn Ramos Vargas, 33, was shot to death in San German, Puerto Rico, on Sept. 30. She worked as a bartender and was studying to become a nurse.
Felycya Harris, 33, was killed in Augusta, Georgia, on Oct. 6. She enjoyed lending her eye to improve the surroundings of others and made others feel comfortable in their own space. She could do “Just about anything with decorating,“ which she learned from her late grandmother.
Brooklyn Deshuna, 20, was killed in Shreveport, Louisiana, on Oct. 7. She was attending Bossier Parish Community College, studying cosmetology.
Sara Blackwood, 29, was shot to death while walking home from her job in Indianapolis on Oct. 11, which is National Coming Out Day. She enjoyed video games and was a fan of the show “My Little Pony.”
Angel Unique, 25, was killed in Memphis, Tennessee, on Oct. 25. She was a licensed cosmetologist. Friends and family said they remembered her for being “very funny, very nice to everyone she met” and “such a bright person with a positive spirit.”
Scottlynn Kelly Devore, 51, left her house on March 14. Her body was found on March 30. A suspect has been charged in her death. This was reported just 2 days ago, an example of transgender and non-binary murders that go unreported and unknown.
Yunieski Carey Herrara, 39, was stabbed to death on Nov. 17 in Miami, Florida. She was a model, performer, dancer and activist who was well known and loved by the LGBTQ community. She was very proud of her Cuban heritage. She was murdered by a man who identified as her husband.
Ashley Moore, 26, was found dead in April in Newark, N.J., with strangle marks on her neck. After numerous calls from the LGBTQ community in New Jersey, the investigation is still ongoing. She once worked at the restaurant on the 102nd floor of One World Trade.