Today is a solemn day for members of Buffalo's LGBT community. Locally, it's the Transgender Day of Remembrance - a day set aside to memorialize people killed due to anti-transgender hatred and prejudice.
Michael Rizzo is the Executive Editor of Loop Magazine – Buffalo’s monthly publication for the LGBT community and its allies. In the course of writing an article about the Day of Remembrance for this month’s issue, Rizzo and Loop contributor Kristine Hollander compiled a list of 24 people who have been murdered in the U.S. this year. They are members of the transgender community, and victims of acts like stabbing, strangulation, and fatal gunshot wounds.
“It’s some pretty horrific things. And stuff that…they weren’t the first things that I would have thought about hearing. So knowing that there’s transphobia out there and knowing that people are probably dying, but just no realizing how horrific it actually is was kind of sobering.”
In full disclosure, this year will be the first that time Rizzo is attending the day of remembrance.
But people like Patti Jones, Executive Chair of the Pride Center of Western New York, and a co-founder of Spectrum – have been to the ceremony several times before. She describes it as very somber occasion.
“It’s…it’s a rude awakening and a reminder of the struggles of our community and what we deal with on a daily basis or could be dealing with.”
The setting is a church, to serve as a public place, with pastors to officiate a grief ceremony. But to be clear, it’s not a religious observance. Candles will be lit, and the names of the dead will be spoken aloud, so as not to forget the struggles that Jones says the trans community is still going through.
She says at the end of the ceremony, there’s a catharsis and a sense of unburdening.
“You join with each other reading these names and lighting a candle to not forget. There’s a culmination of that and meeting with your community and your peers. There’s strength in that.”
The subtitle of Rizzo’s article on the Day of Remembrance is “The community is not out of the woods yet.” He says recent breakthroughs have been wonderful – like marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples, and progress in New York State towards nondiscrimination of the transgender community
“But…that’s not the end of the battle. Certainly not the only thing that we are looking to accomplish by the movement or by putting this out into the public eye.”
And while that public eye is growing and starting to focus more on issues facing the transgender community, Jones says the local day of remembrance has not always come into that view.
“I don’t think we’ve had media there yet.”
Jones has been less involved with Spectrum in the last year or so, but she recalls sending out press releases for the event in years past.
“It doesn’t seem to be newsworthy enough to get much of a headline.”
Jones says the amount of interest has peaked this year, namely due to headlines about celebrities coming out as transgender.
As for the overall coverage of transgender issues, Jones says it’s not always done in the right way. She says it’s often taken on as a sensationalistic topic with inappropriate questions asked, and a focus on transitional stories.
“But there’s bigger stories and more important ones such as this. We’re just people looking to live our lives true to who we need to be.
Spectrum’s Transgender Day of Remembrance ceremony takes place tonight from 5 to 7 p.m. at Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church on Main Street. The international day of remembrance takes place tomorrow.