Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, U.S. Rep. Donald McEachin and diverse folks from across the city were all present at events honoring the loss of transgender lives in the last year.
The annual Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) has been honored every Nov. 20 since the late 1990s, and the former capital of the confederacy played host to two events giving folks the chance to remember those lost to transphobic violence.
At Diversity Richmond, the city’s LGBTQ community center, Stoney declared Nov. 20 the city’s annual Transgender Day of Remembrance.
“I think we all wish we didn’t have to be here for something like this, remembering transgender family and friends who unfortunately lost their lives just for being who they are,” he said before reading the words of the proclamation to the assembled crowd. “I want this to be a celebration about where we are going to go as a community. I want Richmond to be an inclusive and welcoming community to all people.”
Gov. McAuliffe similarly declared Nov. 20 the state’s Transgender Day of Remembrance, but his presence came in the form of a printed and framed proclamation.
Stoney’s appearance was followed by the event’s somber tradition of reading the names of those who died in the last year. While no one from Richmond was part of the list this year, India Monroe of Newport News and Ebony Morgan of Lynchburg were both mentioned in the ceremony. Prince George High School students aided in the ceremony by being candle barriers as the 27 names were read with brief bios of each life lost.
Members of police forces from around the Richmond region, including Richmond Police Chief Alfred Durham were in attendance, but undoubtedly the most notable voice in the room was that of Richmond’s freshman congressman, McEachin.
McEachin had long been an LGBTQ advocate in the Virginia Senate, and now he’s in Washington on the House Armed Services Committee. It’s through that committee that McEachin found a unique link to the day of remembrance: Trump’s tweets threatening to expel transgender service members from the armed services.
“It was shocking to me because it harkened back to another day … when they said a certain group of people couldn’t fly airplanes,” he said, referring to the military barriers preventing African-Americans from various combat duties in World War I, into World War II.
“Well, we proved them wrong, and the unit adapted to [black soldiers’] presence,” he said. “And the unit now has adapted to the presence of transgender individuals. To rip those folks out, who are already serving and protecting us, is wrong.”
At a second event, called the Transgender Day of Remembrance and Resilience and held earlier in the evening at the Richmond Public Library, the crowd aimed to honor those lost by celebrating their lives. Drag queens performed. Grace Harris of the local band Psychobilly Cadillac rocked out with an acoustic track she wrote just before transitioning. Names were shown on a video slideshow while radical LGBTQ poetry was played in the background.
Both events used TDoR’s famed candle-lighting ceremony in their schedules, but the Transgender Day of Resilience went a step further and brought the crowd outside onto the steps by Franklin Street, a once-famous LGBTQ pickup spot in the city, known as “the block.” There, the Rev. Lacette Cross offered words of hope.
“The lights that we hold tonight honor the lives of the sisters, brothers, siblings, friends … people who brought a smile to our face, those whose resilience brought us hope,” she said. “Those lives remind us that we can not be silent in the face of injustice.”