Vigil remembers victims of violence

Students remembered victims of anti-transgender violence at a vigil outside Grant Hall on Monday.
Students remembered victims of anti-transgender violence at a vigil outside Grant Hall on Monday.
Credit: 
Jon Wilinofsky

Queen’s students and community members gathered outside Grant Hall Monday evening for a candlelight vigil for Transgender Day of Remembrance.

Huddling in a circle holding flickering white candles, 34 people paid tribute to individuals who were slain as a result of anti-transgender hatred or prejudice in the past year.

The event was organized by the Education on Queer Issues Project (EQuIP), a group within the AMS Social Issues Commission that is dedicated to lobbying for and educating the public about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.

Laura Greenwood and Devon Murphy, both ArtSci ’09, attended the Transgender Day of Remembrance vigil.

Greenwood said she attended because the event deals with what she feels is an important and little-known issue.

“There’s not a lot of media attention about [violence against transgender people], but what you learn about it makes you want to learn more,” Greenwood said.

Murphy agreed.

“These people that we’re remembering—not a lot of people know about what’s happened to them, so it’s really important to bring that visibility to them,” he said.

Bryan Samis, Sci ’06 and Naila Bhanji, ArtSci ’06, organized the vigil. During the event, they read the names of 28 individuals killed in North America since last year’s Transgender Day of Remembrance. A few members in the crowd wept as the names and causes of death were read. The vigil concluded with members of the crowd lowering their heads for a moment of silence.

Bhanji said she has attended the vigil for the past four years.

“Every year it’s really sad and it’s no different this year,” she said.

Bhanji and Samis told the crowd about a three-year-old boy who was beaten to death by his father because the father thought his son was effeminate.

Bhanji said the deaths reported in the vigil are the most severe and several more go unreported.

“Most of the names are from the United States,” she said. “Now, think about all the other deaths that go on unreported—that’s going to add up.”

Samis added there are other explanations for why the number of transgender deaths within the last year may not be truly representive.

“In some states in the U.S., hate crimes against the transgender population are not considered hate crimes, so they are not reported as such,” he said.

One of the ways EQuIP members promoted the event was by drawing chalk outlines outside Grant Hall for every person killed in the past year. Samis added they hope the outlines help people who see them visualize the severity of the issue.

Transgender Day of Remembrance is typically held on Nov. 20 each year in numerous cities across the world.

“We thought there would be a better turnout on a weeknight,” Samis said of EQuIP’s decision to hold the vigil a day later, noting that the turnout was much larger than in previous years.

“I’m glad it’s growing in size because there are more people here this year,” Bhanji said. “Hopefully it will continue to grow next year and the year after that.” Following the vigil, the group was invited to attend a screening of “By Hook or By Crook,” a transgender-themed film.

Samis said his personal connection with someone who is transgendered made him more aware of the misunderstandings that are associated with transgender people, but he added he supported the event primarily to increase awareness around campus.

“There is still a lot of negativity about trans people and trans issues, like if [people] see a man dressed like a woman, they think they’re some kind of freak cross-dresser and they don’t always understand there are a lot of psychological and other issues that are involved,” he said. “I think it’s really important to increase people’s sensitivity and I hope the vigil has helped do this.”

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