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Luther College PRIDE observes Transgender Day of Remembrance

Members of PRIDE Pablo Alonso ('17), Filiberto Lopez ('19), Wyatt Anians ('19), Nora Haugen-Wente ('19) and Ashleigh Bunkofske ('18).

Members of PRIDE Pablo Alonso ('17), Filiberto Lopez ('19), Wyatt Anians ('19), Nora Haugen-Wente ('19) and Ashleigh Bunkofske ('18).

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Members of PRIDE Pablo Alonso ('17), Filiberto Lopez ('19), Wyatt Anians ('19), Nora Haugen-Wente ('19) and Ashleigh Bunkofske ('18).

Emma Busch, Staff Writer

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Luther College People for the Rights and Inclusion of Diversity and Expression (PRIDE) held an event to recognize the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) on Nov. 20. TDoR is an annual day of observance that honors the memories of those who lost their lives to acts of anti-transgender violence in the United States and internationally.

According to PRIDE president Filiberto Lopez-Garcia (‘19), the organization believes it is necessary to observe TDoR in order to raise awareness of the issues the trans community faces and to encourage student allyship.

“It’s important to recognize [TDoR] on college campuses in order for us to be more socially competent as students, as well as to learn about other communities that many students aren’t exposed to,” Lopez-Garcia said. “[We need to recognize it] at an international scale in order for the trans community to see and feel that we are with them.”

TDoR was created by writer and transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith in 1999 following the death of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who lost her life to a fatal stabbing in her apartment. The first TDoR vigil honored her memory, in addition to others in the trans community who died due to similar acts of violence.

Like those before it, PRIDE’s TDoR event sought to memorialize victims and call attention to anti-transgender violence during a year in which the United States reached a death toll of 25 known victims, the highest annual total on record according to the Human Rights Campaign.

Attendees of the event were invited to read slips about the victims that included information such as their names, locations, and cause of death. Some attendees found the slips too difficult to read aloud.

PRIDE secretary Wyatt Anians (‘19) said that he believes it is important to find a balance between reckoning with the violence transgender people face while still maintaining respect for victims.

“We want to know about the actual violence,” Anians said. “It’s raw and evil and we shouldn’t hide it away because it’s important to know the truth, but we still have to have respect the dead. Some of the deaths were extremely gruesome and hard to share — from cases of rape to mob killings — but we do need to acknowledge that this violence is real.”

PRIDE community liaison Neve Heimer-Lang (‘19) found the event moving and was pleased by the support demonstrated by those in attendance.

“The effect of [hearing] all of [the names] together and knowing that there were so many more that we did not read about and each of them had a story is just horrifying,” Heimer-Lang said. “I was just really glad to see students, professors, and staff celebrate the lives of these people and remember them and hopefully to work towards a better future.”

In addition to reading names, PRIDE tabled during the day to collect signatures in support of the trans community, collecting a total of 86 by the time of the event. Anians hopes that the TDoR event gave attendees an opportunity to reflect on the challenges that the transgender community faces and encouraged them to work towards a better future.

“There are definitely people in this world that face issues that you might never think about and real fears for their lives that we can never fully understand until we look at the folks we remember on this kind of day,” Anians said. “We’re not proactive about thinking of these victims, and it’s nice to have this day as a reactive component, but we should be proactive in the love that we feel for others. Even though we’re remembering the past, we’re really trying to work towards a future where transphobia is nonexistent.”

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