Transgender Day of Remembrance

Located in the Arkansas Union’s Anne Kittrell Art Gallery from Nov. 15 through Sunday, a memorial commemorated 43 of the transgender people who have died by violence in U.S. this year. Members of the UA community created the memorial in honor of Transgender Day of Remembrance, observed Saturday.

In honor of Transgender Day of Remembrance, members of the UA community created an array of memorial boxes commemorating transgender Americans who were killed this year.

On Saturday, members of the LGBTQ community and allies worldwide observed Transgender Day of Remembrance, a solemn commemoration of the lives of transgender and gender non-conforming individuals who died from violence. More transgender people have been killed in the U.S. in 2021 than in any other year on record, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

The UA community’s nod to TDOR, a memorial set up in the Arkansas Union’s Anne Kittrell Art Gallery from Nov. 15 through Sunday, was a collection of 43 personalized cardboard boxes decorated with photos, glitter and messages of remembrance. At least 43 people, including students, staff and faculty members, came together to craft a box for each transgender victim of violence, said Anthony DiNicola, UA coordinator of cultural communities, who helped plan the project.

“Even seeing 43 names, you can forget that these are 43 people,” DiNicola said. “But they’re children, people who were loved, and people who had love to give, who were taken by senseless violence.”

Sarah Campau, a graduate assistant for the Center for Multicultural and Diversity Education, wanted to create the memorial when she learned how many transgender people died from violence this year, she said. She wanted the display to commemorate those people and bring the UA community together in the process.

“I think it gives a really impactful look when you realize that this is a lot of people,” Campau said. “We’re hoping people see the humanity in people who are dying and see the large amount of people who are dying.”

DiNicola was moved by how members of the UA community united to make the memorial, he said. Some volunteers chose to research the deceased and include personal touches like poems and letters honoring their lives.

Emma Stevens, a sophomore, made multiple commemorative boxes for the memorial. She thinks the display helped spread awareness about the ways in which transgender people are disproportionately harmed by violence, she said.

“Part of the reason I wanted to contribute is because I have a lot of trans friends and family,” Stevens said. “It would really hurt me if one of them was hurt, so I wanted to honor the memories of those who had been hurt in a hate crime.”

Transgender people are over four times more likely than cisgender people to become victims of violent crime, according to the results of a study from the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law.

Stevens researched one of the victims, Zoey Martinez, before making her memorial box. Learning about how she died made the experience more personal and impactful, Stevens said. Martinez, a 20-year-old transgender Latina woman from Seattle, was killed Aug. 31.

Next to the display of memorial boxes, there was a QR code leading to statistics detailing how the transgender community is targeted in hate crimes and links to local and national organizations that provide resources for transgender people. The resources include mental health services specifically for transgender individuals, guides to seeking therapy and tips for safe dating and navigating relationships.

“(With an Arkansas General Assembly) that has passed some harmful bills to the trans community this year, I think it’s even more important for us to be visible and make people aware that trans people are here, and they are at risk because of the way we are treating them,” Campau said.

The state legislature sparked anger, fear and debate after passing two laws targeting transgender Arkansans this spring.

Act 461 bans public schools and higher education institutions from allowing transgender girls and women to compete on girls’ and women's sports teams. Act 626 would have banned healthcare professionals from providing gender-affirming healthcare to transgender minors, regardless of parental consent. In July, a U.S. district judge blocked the enforcement of Act 626, but Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge plans to appeal Moody’s decision, she said in a statement.

Since the creation of the UA memorial, reports of transgender people killed in the U.S. this year have risen to 47, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

“It’s scary because every year the number gets higher and higher,” Campau said. “As long as this is happening, we need to be talking about it.”

DiNicola wants to make the memorial an annual tradition for as long as hateful people continue to target the transgender community, he said. He hopes the display compels the UA community to see the victims as human beings, not just statistics.

“When we get caught up in the debate over bathrooms and athletics, we forget that these are just sons and daughters and children who unfortunately were taken,” DiNicola said. “I hope this opens someone’s eyes to the fact that these were 43 people who didn’t need to be taken, and we have to be working every single day to create change.”

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