In her opening remarks at Center on Halsted's Transgender Day or Remembrance observance on Nov. 20, the Center's Director of Gender Equity and Inclusion Vanessa Sheridan said that the occasion was "an opportunity to commemorate those who we've lost lost … and draw strength from each other."
The Center's Hoover-Leppen Theatre was filled to capacity for the occasion, which largely pays remembrance to trans persons who have been killed in the previous year. The names and images of the 22 trans people killed so far this year were projected on the theater's screen before the presentation began. After her remarks, Sheridan read the names of the victims aloud, then rang a small bell. Pastor Joy Douglas Strome lit a candle for each of the individuals as well.
Among the speakers was Elise Malary of Equality Illinois, who reflected on transgender activism, noting the contributions made by Stonewall activists Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. She also thanked local activist Gloria Allen, who was in the audience that night, for giving "mentorship, meals, etiquette training and, most of all, love."
"To know a trans woman is to know a superhero," added activist and Broadway Youth Center Youth Development Project Manager Channyn Parker. "The fact that she is still standing here today is a miracle."
Two recent murders have been fresh on the minds of transgender Chicagoans, those of Dejanay Stanton, who was killed Aug. 30, and Ciara Manaj Carter Frazier, who died Oct. 3. Parker questioned whether, on the Day of Remembrance, whether the community was more intentional in venerating the dead than holding up those who are left behind.
But she quickly added that a number of circumstances require that those who've been lost never stray far from the community's thoughts, since law enforcement ultimately seems indifferent to solving crimes that befall the community: "Not since 1999 has the murder of a Black trans woman been solved. ... We are living in an epidemic."
Parker mentioned numerous ways that individuals could support transgender women of color, among them were that white trans women, could do more to stand up for their Black and Brown sisters; community members could be more supportive of drag performers; men who love trans women should no longer be shamed; and lawmakers could be called to action in states where "trans-panic" is still a legal defense. Illinois, she noted is one of just three states where it is not.
"Guilt without action means nothing," said Parker. "Show up and do something."