Transgender Day of Remembrance honors lives lost

Candles were lit to remember all the lives that have been lost.

Courtney Koeller

Candles were lit to remember all the lives that have been lost.

The cold night and ever-present wind at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville might have been inconvenient, but it didn’t stop a small group of people from gathering.

On Nov. 21 the Doyle Center hosted a candlelight vigil to honor the transgender lives that have been lost this year. A speech was given by Maxwell Winter sophomore, English and accounting major, followed by a reading of names and lighting of candles.

“This year, worldwide, we have seen a total of 295 deaths. This brings the total since 2008 up to 2,264. Although this number has decreased since last year, we still need to stand up and say enough is enough,” Winter said. “This number is really only scratching the surface of trans individuals who have lost their lives. We can’t account for the individuals who were closeted or who sadly took their own lives. In the United States there were 24 known victims this year.”

Transgender Day of Remembrance, held on Nov. 20 each year, was first started by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith to honor the memory of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was killed in 1998. TDOR emphasizes the losses faced due to anti-transgender bigotry and violence.

“Doing this vigil I think is important not only for the awareness it brings to the rest of the community even if they don’t actually attend, but specifically for the health of those who do attend and who do the reading of the names and the lighting of the candles. It gives us an opportunity to process and mourn those who we’ve lost and the deaths in our community regardless of whether or not we knew them,” senior mathematics major Rosemary Carroll said.

TDOR raises public awareness of hate crimes against transgender people and it publicly honors the lives of those who might otherwise be forgotten. TDOR gives allies a chance participate in a vigil to memorialize those who’ve died. The event went on despite the wind not allowing the candles to stay lit.

“I think this was an important event to remember and mourn transgender people who have lost their lives. I wish that the weather would have permitted us to light all of the candles, but the event was still a moving memorial for those who have been killed,” senior professional writing major Emily Drews said.

“We’ve come a long way since 2000,” said Winter. “In 2009 president Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and Jamesburg Jr. Hate Crime Prevention Act into law. This is a federal hate-crime bill that combats against [crimes motivated by] gender identity and sexual orientation.”

After the vigil, snacks and conversation were had in the Doyle Center. To learn more about TDOR and how you can participate, visit