Transgender Chicagoans and allies commemorated the 12th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance at Night of Fallen Stars Nov. 18. The event is held every November at Center on Halsted, in partnership with the Howard Brown Health Center.
The evening featured performances by youth, presentations by local transgender organizations and a short film on transgender people who have been murdered worldwide this year. Among those in the film was Sandy Woulard, a transgender Chicago woman who was found shot to death in Hamilton Park June 21.
Local organizers said that other transgender murders in Chicago have gone unreported this year.
"How many others are missing from our remembrance tonight?" Lisa Gilmore, who directs the Anti-Violence Project at Center on Halsted, asked the audience. "How many more are gone unnoticed? Who has been trafficked away? Sent away? Suicided away? Who is being repeatedly targeted?"
At least three other transgender Chicagoans died unexpectedly this year. Quinn Collins and Johannah-Baker Johnson were killed in separate automobile accidents. Selma Diaz was discovered dead in Monroe Harbor in May. Diaz's death was ruled a suicide by police, but some of her neighbors and friends suspected foul play. Photos and text by Kate Sosin
Two nights later, nearly 100 people gathered outside the Thompson Center in the Loop for a candlelit vigil to honor transgender homicide victims of the last year. The vigil marked the first Transgender Day of Remembrance ( TDOR ) event to be held outside publicly in years.
Activists estimate that at least 16 trans people were killed this year, most of them transfeminine ( transgender and feminine-presenting ) people of color. Among those mourned nationally this year is Sandy Woulard, a Chicagoan who was shot to death in Hamilton Park June 21.
"I'd like to caution you to not just see them as victims" said keynote speaker and transgender organizer Marti Abernathy. "The commonality of each person on this list was that they daredthey dared to live their truth."
Participants lit candles and read the names and stories of the 16.
The vigil was the first event hosted by Chicago's newly formed transgender coalition that includes TransActions, LGBT Change, Howard Brown Health Center, PFLAG, Join the Impact-Chicago, Equality Illinois, Genderqueer Chicago, AIDS Foundation of Chicago, the Chicago Black Gay Men's Caucus, Chicago Women's Health Center, Illinois Gender Advocates and the Transformative Justice Law Project, among others.
TDOR has been observed internationally since 1998 when a transgender woman named Rita Hester was murdered in San Francisco.