Transgender Day of Remembrance

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Transgender Day of Remembrance reflection

Polare issue 98 January-March 2014

By Tahlia Trijbetz

 Before we plunge deep into the new year, with resolutions of happiness, health and safety, I’d like to acknowledge those whose 2013 may have brought with it experiences of feeling unsafe or at risk. Sadly this is not uncommon for many transgender people. Once a year, on 20th November, the world stands together against this violence and this past November we did the same thing.

On that night, Newtown Neighbourhood Centre’s main hall was buzzing with almost eighty transgender and gender-diverse people, family, friends and allies. Standing before the crowd, I looked out at a sea of faces, of people whose identities and life experiences were uniquely their own. But who all had one thing in common. They had all come together to commemorate Transgender Day of Remembrance – a day that began to honour Rita Hester who was murdered in 1998 and a day that honours the many others who have lost their lives due to hatred, prejudice and violence towards transgender people simply because of their gender identity. Transgender Day of Remembrance also allows us to raise awareness of the ongoing violence and hate crimes against transgender people, historically and still today, and reminds us that there is still much to do to fulfil every person’s right to a life free from violence.

That night’s event was extraordinary, as it had been created by the community, for the community. Because the process of grieving is such a personal and unique experience, with no ‘one’ way, no ‘right’ way to mourn, the evening represented just one such opportunity to come together as a community and recognise this day. Community members generously agreed to share their own experiences with the room – of challenges and hardship, but also of strength and resilience, reflecting on what makes them strong and looking towards the future. Others chose to express these stories through prose, music, poetry and art – again celebrating the diversity of expression within the community.

We also invited the congregants to contribute to our Wishing Well, a box covered with the iconic pink, blue and white stripes of the transgender pride flag. Into the well, people placed messages they wrote about their wishes for the future… something they wish for themselves, their hopes or dreams; something they wish for transgender people here and across the world; or something they wish for wider society. Anything at all. These inspiring and moving messages will be compiled into an image or poster so that we can share with the wider community the hopes and dreams of the people who attended the event that night. In this way, we can help spread messages of positivity and of possibility.

The Transgender Day of Remembrance commemoration continued on that Friday 22nd November in the NSW Parliament House. We were privileged to have Superintendent Tony Crandell, the new NSW Police Corporate Sponsor for LGBTI Issues, present the keynote address. He jokingly professed that, as a newcomer to this role, he would inevitably make mistakes and asked for our pardon in advance. By doing so, he exposed his own vulnerability and ‘humanness’, reducing the power difference to what felt quite like equals. He made it clear that it is transgender people themselves, not others, who are the experts on their lives and the issues affecting the transgender community. As such, he looks forward to walking alongside the community to gain greater understanding and knowledge. Supt Crandell’s speech was honest and sensitive, and showed great insight into the significance of the commemoration.

We thank Supt Crandell and the several representatives of the NSW Police who attended the event for their strong, positive presence, and for their ongoing commitment and support. I know that this dedication is echoed throughout the NSW Police Force and I look forward to continuing our partnership in the coming year.

In addition to emceeing the event, the Gender Centre’s Katherine Cummings presented a powerful poem of her own, where intent eyes and slight nods from the group illustrated the resonance and relevance of her words. Katherine then welcomed contributions from the audience, with those taking up the offer candidly sharing their personal stories and reflections.

I would also like to mention that it was heart-warming to see representatives of a number of key organisations at the event, including the Transgender Anti-Violence Project partners, the Inner City Legal Centre and City of Sydney.

 On behalf of the Transgender Anti-Violence Project and all of us at the Gender Centre, I’d like to sincerely thank all who attended these events, for standing together and supporting each other. I am very grateful for the help of some exceptional volunteers, the Carmen Rupe Memorial Trust and the team at InsideOut TV who filmed both events, and the Newtown Neighbourhood Centre and Parliament House for donating the use of their venues for our events. Each one of you contributed something special to the accomplishment of a powerful Transgender Day of Remembrance 2013.

I wish you all a wonderful year, where the only tears shed are those of laughter, and where we take one, or even two or three, steps closer to making those Wishing Well sentiments a reality.

Transgender Day of Remembrance 2013 events

Afternoon Event

On 20 November every year transgender people around the world join in observance of the Transgender Day of Remembrance in memory of those who have suffered serious violence and particularly those who have lost their lives as a consequence of being transgender.

Those who are present will be invited to contribute by offering their own experiences of prejudicial violence against transgender people. We would like to invite community members, services providers, and representatives of government and non-government organisations to this function. Light refreshments will be served.

To give us an approximation of numbers for catering purposes, we would appreciate an R.S.V.P. by Friday, 15 November to Katherine Cummings on (02) 9569 2366 or by email

Where: The Waratah Room of the N.S.W. Parliament in Macquarie Street, Sydney.
When: Friday 22 November 2013, 12 noon for 12:30pm until 3:00pm
How Much: Free
Do I Need To Book: Yes (please see above)

Evening Event

The Transgender Day of Remembrance evening event is on Wednesday the 20th of November from 7:00pm until 9:00pm in the Rainbow Room of the Newtown Neighbourhood Centre at 1 Bedford Street, Newtown (opposite Newtown railway station).

This event will honour those who have lost their lives due to transphobia and violence, raising awareness of ongoing violence, and sharing experiences of resilience and strength.

An event created by, and for, the transgender community. Family, friends and allies also welcome.

Where: Newtown Neighbourhood Centre – 1 Bedford Street, Newtown (opposite Newtown railway station)
When: 7:00pm to 9:00pm, Wednesday 20th November 2013
How Much: Free
Do I Need To Book: No

Enquiries: Tahlia Trijbetz, Transgender Anti-Violence Project Officer at or (02) 9569 2366