HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) is a time for us to observe annually that helps to ensure that transgender lives are not invisible.

It is traditionally observed on Nov. 20 every year and memorializes transgender individuals who have lost their lives due to anti-transgender violence, discrimination and prejudice.

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In October, the Hawaii State Department of Health issued its continued support of transgender lives in state. You can click here for access to transgender resources.

Their move marks a point in time when views of transgender and non-binary people can live safely — or at least without fear — of being lynched, imprisoned, tortured or murdered.

Rita Hester, a transgender woman, was the violent precipitating event that led to TDoR. She was murdered in November 1998.

Over the years, TDoR has grown to honor and remember victims globally, shedding light on the challenges and violence faced by the transgender community.

Here are key events and factors that have contributed to the establishment of Transgender Day of Remembrance:

The Compton Cafeteria Riots in 1966

This was the first-time queer people decided to say enough is enough. Transwomen and nonbinary people stood up to being exiled from their safe haven due to their gender expression and used it to stand up to police brutality. Few people even know about this event let alone what these people did to create a platform for TDoR.

Rita Hester’s Murder in 1998

The brutal murder of Rita Hester, a transgender woman, on November 28, 1998, served as a catalyst for the creation of TDoR. Community activists and advocates responded by organizing candlelight vigils to honor her memory and raise awareness about violence against transgender individuals.

Gwendolyn Ann Smith’s Vigil in 1999

Gwendolyn Ann Smith, a transgender activist, organized the first Transgender Day of Remembrance vigil in 1999 in San Francisco to memorialize not only Rita Hester but all transgender individuals lost to violence.

Global Recognition

TDoR expanded beyond its initial roots in the United States and gained global recognition as a day to acknowledge and mourn the lives of transgender individuals who have suffered violence and discrimination.

Awareness Campaigns

Various 2SLGBTQ+ organizations and activists have played a crucial role in raising awareness about TDoR and advocating for the rights and safety of transgender individuals.

Documenting Violence

The Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD and other organizations have worked to document instances of violence against transgender individuals, providing evidence of the challenges they face and emphasizing the need for change.

Legal and Policy Changes

Advocacy efforts have sought to address discriminatory laws and policies, pushing for legal protections for transgender individuals and promoting inclusivity.

Media Representation

Increased media representation of transgender individuals, both in positive and challenging contexts, has contributed to a broader understanding of the struggles and discrimination they face.

Community Activism

Grassroots movements, community organizations, and transgender activists have played a vital role in mobilizing support for TDoR and promoting inclusivity, education, and acceptance.

Solidarity Events

Solidarity events, such as marches, panel discussions, and educational programs, have been organized globally to mark TDoR and address the systemic issues leading to violence against transgender individuals.

Movies to watch

Representation of the transgender community did not come easily in Hollywood. However, the parody of a transgender person in 1975 opened pandoras box and has led to increasing numbers of films and television that provide insights into the lives of transgender and non-binary people.

In the 1980s and 1990s, film and television worked with Tootsie (1982), Bosom Buddies (1980-1982) and Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) to bring transgender life in a non-threatening and comedic look at men who ended needing to dress as women in order to have better lives. Even the Birdcage (1996) explored the lives of transgender and non-binary people.

These are our top choices:

  • Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975).
  • Paris Is Burning (1990).
  • Ma Vie en Rose (1997).
  • Boys Don’t Cry (1999).
  • Transamerica (2005).
  • Gun Hill Road (2011).
  • Boy Meets Girl (2014).
  • The Danish Girl (2015).
  • Passing (2015).
  • Tangerine (2015).
  • Growing Up Coy (2016).
  • This Is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous (2017).
  • Girl (2018).
  • Alice Júnior (2019).
  • Bit (2019).
  • Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling (2019).
  • Transfinite (2019).
  • Cowboys (2020).
  • Disclosure (2020).
  • Miss (2020).
  • Transhood (2020).
  • The Trans List (2016).
  • Anything’s Possible (2022).

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While Transgender Day of Remembrance solemnly commemorates lives lost, it also serves as a call to action for advocacy, education and systemic change to create a safer and more inclusive world for transgender and non-binary people.