Groups recognize transgender remembrance day

REMEMBERENCE: On Hayden lawn on Thursday, students participated in Transgender Day of Remembrance with a cloth of black knots. Each knot in the long black cloth represents a death due to hate crimes against transgenders. (Photo by Rosie Gochnour)

Correction added.

Two student groups teamed up Thursday to spread awareness about transgender issues as part of a national day of remembrance for the group.

The LGBTQ Coalition and Gender WHAT?!, both student groups on campus that raise awareness about gender concerns and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community, had a booth on Hayden Lawn to help raise awareness of transgender issues during Transgender Day of Remembrance.

The day culminated with a candlelight vigil, where attendees were encouraged to share their experiences.

Transgender is a term used to identify those who vary from typical gender roles.

This was the 12th annual day of remembrance, held in November to honor Rita Hester, a transgender individual who was murdered in 1998 in Boston.

Accounting junior Taylor Heller, president of Gender WHAT?!, organized the event and said it was important for students to gather and share each other’s experiences.

“You never know who else out there has been through the same thing,” Heller said.

Criminal justice senior Jesse Weil spoke to the roughly 40 people attending the vigil about the bullying and violence he experienced growing up as a transgender male.

“Despite love and acceptance by my parents, I was not accepted by my classmates,” Weil said, noting that teachers and administrators did nothing to stem the bullying.

He said transgender issues are often left out by the lesbian, gay and bisexual community.

“For too long, the ‘T’ and ‘Q’ have been left out,” Weil said.

German and political science senior Max Feldhake, co-director for the LGBTQ Coalition, said this is at least the fourth time ASU has held a vigil for the Transgender Day of Remembrance, which is meant to shed light on the community.

“Even within the LGBTQ world, transgender people have been underrepresented,” Feldhake said. “This is intended to bring trans issues to the forefront.”

He said while discrimination against transgender people has historically come from the straight community, it can also come from the gay and lesbian community.

“[Transgendered people] face similar but also very different challenges,” he said. “This event puts a name and a face and a more contextualized story to what we hear about in the news every day.”

Engineering sophomore Emily Sutton stopped by the two groups’ booth Thursday morning, where she was told about the vigil. Having started a gay/straight alliance at her high school, she wanted to start getting involved at ASU.

“It’s something I care very much about and wanted to get involved in again,” Sutton said. “They’re great people and I don’t understand why others feel so angered by them.”

She said having others share their experiences was a way to humanize the violence.

“We’re all the same,” she said. “Special, but the same.”

At the close of peoples’ personal accounts, 11 others lined up on the stage and lit candles of their own to represent the 11 reported incidents of violence against transgendered people in the United States so far this year.

“These candles also represent those we do not know about,” Heller said, noting that many incidents go unreported.

Reach the reporter at ymgonzal@asu.edu