Week of events honor transgender community
For the past decade or more, people have gathered on the steps of the Georgia Capitol to remember transgender people who were killed or died because of who they are. This year, the day will also celebrate life.
The annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, facilitated by Tracee McDaniel and her organization, the Juxtaposed Center for Transformation, is also moving indoors for the first time and will be held at the Phillip Rush Center on Nov. 20.
“In addition to the vigil we’ve added a new component this year,” McDaniel says.
“We also wanted to focus on the living and are collaborating with various organizations with health screenings, hormonal treatments, HIV testing, mental health counseling. And we are also working to provide housing and job information,” she explains.
The free health fair is planned for 1-5 p.m. Nov. 20 at the Rush Center with the traditional vigil to follow at 6:30 p.m.
“We have always focused on the deceased in the past. But I receive calls on a daily basis of people in need. We just wanted to make sure we memorialize the dead but make sure the living have service,” McDaniel says.
“I’m so excited. We are really grateful of the free health care education providers. And within the LGB community there are still so many who are transphobic, so we are grateful to have providers who are not. Instead they see us as people.”
Participating agencies include The Health Initiative, the Fulton and Dekalb health departments, the Georgia Department of Public Health, Aniz Inc., Absolute Care and the Living Room.
McDaniel says TDOR this year is also joining forces with the Alpha & Omega HIV/AIDS and Health Initiatives International, Inc., which is part of the Taking Back Our Future Committee. Plans are to work with Alpha & Omega on similar events in the future, McDaniel says. The keynote speaker for the TDOR vigil will be Alpha & Omega founder Dr. YaQar.
Cheryl Courtney-Evans, founder of Transgender Individuals Living Their Truth (TILTT), also plays a role in the annual TDOR event and is hopeful about the expanded focus.
“Basically this year is just a holistic approach to the status quo with regards to the transgender community,” she says. “All are ripples in a pond.”
Courtney-Evans also acknowledged that reading the names of the dead each year during the Transgender Day of Remembrance has been somewhat frustrating. Yes, it is important to remember those who have died, but it is also past time to work toward making change for those who are alive, she says.
“To me, we’ve had so many losses and we lose so many every year,” she says. “The list gets longer. I for one could stand less name reading and more ideas of motivating those in attendance to organize a movement to change. Once a year we read names and then we’re gone and it’s, ‘Oh, well,’ as opposed to actually doing some tangible actions to change the status quo.”
For Courtney-Evans, that includes passage of a state hate crime law, but also addressing risky behaviors some transgender people are forced into because they can’t find a job which can lead to homelessness, HIV, and health disparities.
“It’s the whole domino effect,” she says. “Until we can find a way to change that, we’re going to have names continue to be called. Calling names is a touch but it doesn’t solve the problem. I hope I don’t sound too callous, but it seems to be an exercise in futility. It’s the same every year. People continue to fall but no one is doing anything to effectively change.”
Weekend of events planned
Several events specifically for the transgender community are also planned the weekend before the Transgender Day of Remembrance.
From Nov. 16-18, The Shepherd’s Table Covenant Church and local transgender groups join together to sponsor Transgender & Gender Non-Conforming Celebration Weekend.
Shepherd’s Table Covenant Church, led by Pastor Elliott Sommerville, is a strong supporter of transgender people, says Courtney-Evans.
Events include a community discussion panel on Nov. 16 at 7 p.m. at the Little Five Points Community Center.
“The Purple Affair: An Evening of Transgender Recognition,” is planned from 6-9 p.m. on Nov. 17 at the community center; and Transgender Recognition Sunday will be held during the 11:45 a.m. service at the Shepherd’s Table, featuring guest speaker Elder Rahkel Henry.
“This year is going to a busy week for transgender events and celebrations,” says Courtney-Evans, who is helping organize some of the events of this weekend.
The panel discussion on Friday will explore the many difficulties facing the transgender community, including legal issues as well as employment and health care. It will also serve as Transgender 101 for those wanting to learn more, Courtney-Evans says.
On Nov. 17 also at the Little Five Points Community Center, the “Purple Affair” will honor and recognize people who are doing important work for the transgender community.
“This is an awards dinner for those who have played an integral roles in trans activism and community involvement,” Courtney-Evans says. “While the event is free, we are asking for donations. This is a fundraiser for TILTT as well as the Shepherd’s Table Church.”
On Sunday, Nov. 18, at the Shepherd’s Table Church, the service will be led completely by transgender people.
“Basically what this does is stretch it out to give it more days of transgender recognition rather than one day where everyone focuses on transgender issues for only a few hours,” Courtney-Evans says.
“I think that’s good. If you can’t come to TDOR, you can experience a trans event during the course of three other events.”
Last year’s Transgender Day of Remembrance, facilitated by Tracee McDaniel (left) and the Juxtaposed Center for Transformation, was held on the steps of the state capitol. This year, TDOR moves indoors to the Phillip Rush Center and includes a health fair before the annual vigil on Nov. 20. (Photo by Dyana Bagby)