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  • Nov 19, 2019

Transgender Day of Remembrance - November 20

Transgender Day of Remembrance is a day when the transgender and non-binary community worldwide comes together to commemorate those lost to anti-transgender violence

By Ari Pehkonen, LCSW, Clinical Social Worker and Natalie, Data and Billing Coordinator.

The observance of the day started after the death of a Boston local, Rita Hester, who was a transgender woman murdered in her Allston apartment in 1998. On this day each year, vigils are held in churches and community centers, and the names, places, and causes of death are read out loud of those transgender people lost to violence. While it is a somber day, it is also a strong reminder of the humanity of transgender and non-binary people, and that despite violence and prejudice, living authentically as yourself is a basic human need (and right!).

"To me, Transgender Day of Remembrance is a day of sadness and pain," shared Natalie, a transgender woman and data and billing coordinator at CHA. "It is a day to consider those who may identify as transgender or non-binary who are not able to live as their true selves due to oppression and fear. It is a day to remember those we have lost in this struggle to be seen as equal and human."

Trans women of color face the highest risk for being murdered. A federal bill was proposed in 2018 prohibiting the use of a "trans panic defense" in courts. Until this legislation is passed, perpetrators can claim they were "panicked" by an individual's transgender identity and use this argument to receive a more lenient sentence.

Although transgender people in Massachusetts are protected under the law, they continue to face violence, harassment and discrimination at schools, work and in the community. Transgender people need the support of their families, friends and communities, especially after experiencing hate violence or discrimination. Sometimes psychological support is also helpful and necessary after a traumatic event.

"Over the past two years, I've lost two acquaintances to suicide and I have friends who have lost more," explained Natalie. "I watch my friends' social media postings with the concern that they may attempt suicide. I think about how the loss of transgender individuals, whether from homicide or suicide, ripples throughout the trans/non-binary community and touches all of us. I think about how people like myself and my friends may be targeted and killed because of who we are. This is why I advocate for a competent and comprehensive contingency of care for LGBTQ+ populations."

The Gender and Sexuality Clinic at Cambridge Health Alliance provides professional LGBTQ+ affirming services and is comprised of psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers within the Department of Psychiatry. The team provides multidisciplinary, compassionate, specialized mental healthcare for LGBTQ+ children, adolescents, adults, and families. Their ultimate goal is to increase accessibility to LGBTQ+ affirming services and to help people across their lifespan to navigate issues related to gender and sexual identity.

Find out more about the Gender and Sexuality Clinic at CHA. If someone you know is interested, please have them contact their primary care provider for a referral. And on Wednesday, November 20, please remember and celebrate trans and non-binary people.

This articles provide general information for educational purposes only. The information provided in this article, or through linkages to other sites, is not a substitute for medical or professional care, and you should not use the information in place of a visit, call consultation or the advice of your physician or other healthcare provider.

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