Illinois Gender Advocates held its eighth annual Transgender Day of Remembrance with a candlelight vigil at the Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted St., on Nov. 18. Dozens of supporters attended the vigil, which was held to honor the memory of transgender and gender variant men and women throughout the world who have been killed because of their gender expression.
'Tonight we say: no more,' said Rick Garcia, political director for Equality Illinois and one of several speakers during the event, 'No one should be beaten or bruised because of who they are.'
'Whether we are the cross-dresser that doesn't pass or the masculine dyke,' said Stevie Conlon, Chair of the Illinois Gender Advocates, 'we are one community.'
The Day of Remembrance was started by West Coast trans-activist Gwendolyn Ann Smith, who maintains a Web site ( www.gender.org/remember ) that remembers the lives of those who have been killed due to anti-transgender violence.
'So many had forgotten some of the individuals we had lost in only the recent past,' Smith states on her Web site. 'I felt that, by forgetting those individuals, we would be doomed to see their deaths repeated.'
The vigil is held every year across the world, not only to remember lives lost but also to call an end to violence against the transgender community.
Rev. Bradley Mickelson of the New Spirit Community Church in Oak Park led the vigil in prayer. 'Religion has condemned many people in the name of God,' said Mickelson, 'What we need to do is take our faith [ and ] stop the religious rhetoric that has divided us.' Mickelson stressed the need for the religious community to embrace transgender men and women.
Bill Greaves, the City's LGBT Community Liaison, attended the vigil on behalf of Mayor Daley. 'You can live here in Chicago openly,' Greaves told the crowd, 'and we will support you.'
The crowd hissed as other speakers during the event expressed their disappointment in the House of Representative's recent passage of ENDA, which left transgender men and women out of the picture. 'Transgender discrimination could be indirect,' said Casey Schwartz of Howard Brown's Broadway Youth Center, 'such as the transphobic action of taking gender identity out of ENDA.'
Sixteen empty chairs held candles which were extinguished as Conlon read off the names of the recent victims of anti-transgender violence. 'We respect you,' Conlon concluded, 'You were something and you will not be forgotten.'
The vigil was followed by the 'Night of Fallen Stars,' an event celebrating the transgender community of Chicago and the lives lost due to transgender hate crimes.