Community members came close to filling Center on Halsted's Hoover-Leppen Theater on Nov. 20 for an observance of the Transgender Day of Remembrance ( TDOR ).
The Center's Director of Trans Relations and Community Engagement, Vanessa Sheridan, moderated the presentation, noting that the somber intentions of the occasion, remembering trans individuals, "stood in stark contrast to the election results of a few weeks ago."
Sheridan added, "Tonight we gather to remember that we have lost, but we also gather to draw strength from one another. … We are a community bound together not in hatred but in love."
Joy Douglas Strome, pastor at Lake View Presbyterian Church, joined Sheridan on stage for a candlelighting ceremony to commemorate those who had been lost. Their names were read, and Sheridan lit individual candles remembering each person.
A panel of community advocates and officials then discussed issues pertinent to the transgender community.
Activist LaSaia Wade noted that the Day of Remembrance served multiple functions for the communitynot just a commemoration of those who had been lost, but an occasion to ask "how we can come together and enjoy our power together."
Activist Alexis Martinez added that the day "feels like a funeral," but urged the audience to remember that transgender people who have died "lived in revolution." She further noted that besides trans persons murdered who are publicly acknowledged, there are others who are lost to completed suicide attempts or violent crimes where the victims' gender identity is not reported.
"The best way to acknowledge them is to be as much of whatever you are as you can be," Martinez said.
Activist Maritxa Vidal added, "Instead of tearing each other down we need to help build each other up."
Wade spoke at length about the need for the trans community to advocate for itself and assert its political power, adding, "We need systems that offer to the [transgender] community the same things that they offer any other community."
Chicago Commission on Human Relations Commissioner Mona Noriega discussed her agency's responsibilities at the presentation as well. Talleen Abu Hanna, who is the 2016 Miss Trans Israel, also gave brief remarks.