The Importance of Transgender Remembrance Day

By Holly Feola & Hanna BabekOpinion Editor & 1851 Contributor

A butterfly with the transgender community pride colors hangs in Valentine Dining Hall to commemorate victims of transphobic hate and violence. Photo by Rebecca Osowski

In honor of Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20, the Donahue Institute held two prerecorded Zoom presentations featuring Schuyler Bailar. Bailar is a graduate of Harvard University and the first transgender athlete to play on an NCAA Division I men’s team. The presentations were held on November 16 and 23 and were organized by the Coordinator of Intercultural Engagement and Commuter Life at the Donahue Institute alum Alanis Perez-Rivera (‘21).

Transgender Day of Remembrance is held to recognize the transgender community, specifically those whose lives have been lost to violence, most often trans women of color. Director of the Donahue Institute for Equity and Social Justice, Jesse Tauriac, explains the day is an opportunity to listen to the transgender community’s stories and learn more about how their lives have been affected by hate and violence.

“People don’t know about [the transgender community’s] experiences and the hate that they’ve been subjected to, and so the day was established to make sure that their lives and voices could be honored,” said Tauriac.

During Bailar’s presentation, he made it clear he was not a spokesperson for everyone who is transgender but wanted to share his individual story and his experiences.

In his story, he discussed his struggle with his gender identity and how it impacted a multitude of aspects of his life from education to mental health and sports. He also shared how through his middle and high school years, he tried to conform to an image others expected him to be. It was not until he was out of high school and beginning college that he was able to be his true self and share his identity.

When Perez-Rivera was asked about her hope for the event she said “I hope that allies were there, and learned a little bit about how to be an ally. I think an allyship lesson can be applied everywhere as well.”

According to The Donahue Institute, they host presentations such as this to provide students an opportunity to learn more about the history of minority groups, like the transgender community. Tauriac says putting on an event to recognize this day allows students and faculty to honor those who lost their lives within the transgender community, to support members of the community.

Tauriac says by recognizing this day and providing educational resources to students, there is an opportunity “to make sure that we can take action to counter the broader messages that are very much in opposition to trans communities, non-binary communities, and other minoritized communities. Making sure that we are really countering the narratives that exist so that everybody is in an equitable position to thrive.”

The flag of the United Three flying on Woodland Ave signifies the intersectionality of the Black Lives Matter and Pride movements. It was designed by alumna Ruth Kehinde (‘21). Photo by Claire Crittendon

In addition to recognizing this day, there are ways for students and faculty to support members of the transgender community on campus throughout the year. Tauriac explains that the Student Government Association has already begun to do this by looking at gender neutral housing on campus and finding ways to provide students with more opportunities for gender neutral housing than what is currently available. 

As of right now, there is one gender neutral floor in East Hall and North Hall, and a few suites in Forest, Bragdon and Butterworth. When senior fashion design major Aster Kallman was asked about what he wanted to see for gender neutral housing he shared, “If there was a gender neutral-only dorm, then not only would people feel a little more safe, just knowing that they’re not going to get hate crimed for it, but there could also be options to give a preferred name to the RA ahead of time so you don’t come to school and have your dead name plastered on your door.”

Another issue students can address includes advocating for broader access to gender neutral bathrooms. Faculty members and educators can further educate themselves to avoid making assumptions in their language.

Both students and faculty members can choose to be conscious of the media they consume, and actively try to watch television shows and movies or read books that focus on stories that differ from their own as a way to promote diversity.

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