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    Thursday, May 30, 2024

    outCT organizes Transgender Day of Remembrance

    New London residents Kyle Murray, who identifies as a member of the trans community, and Cathy Smith-Carolan pay respects to photos of those who passed away in the last year during a candlelight vigil organized by outCT for Transgender Day of Remembrance, on Parade Plaza in New London on Monday, Nov. 20, 2023. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Attendees bow their heads in prayer during a candlelight vigil, organized by outCT for Transgender Day of Remembrance, on Parade Plaza in New London on Monday, Nov. 20, 2023. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Reverend Carolyn Patierno, from All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church, offers a prayer during a candlelight vigil, organized by outCT for Transgender Day of Remembrance, on Parade Plaza in New London on Monday, Nov. 20, 2023. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    OutCT Secretary Robin Harris lights candles to remember those who passed away in the last year during a candlelight vigil, organized by outCT for Transgender Day of Remembrance, on Parade Plaza in New London on Monday, Nov. 20, 2023. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    OutCT Secretary Robin Harris lights candles to remember those who passed away in the last year during a candlelight vigil, organized by outCT for Transgender Day of Remembrance, on Parade Plaza in New London on Monday, Nov. 20, 2023. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    New London ― At a Transgender Day of Remembrance vigil Monday evening on Parade Plaza, the names of eight people who died in New England in the past year were read aloud one by one, and candles were lit in their honor.

    “We observe the day annually on Nov. 20th to call attention to our trans and non-binary siblings stolen too soon from us just because of violence,” said Chevelle Moss-Savage, vice president of outCT, an LGBTQIA+ service organization based in New London. She called such deaths “a public health crisis.”

    The victims’ eulogies were read aloud, followed by the ringing of a Tibetan singing bowl, to commemorate their lives. Among those lost were an accomplished student, an artist and dancer, a mathematician, and a community member who helped with food assistance for kids during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    The youngest victim, described as having a kind soul and warm smile, was 14 years old.

    About 30 people commemorated Transgender Day of Remembrance at the candlelight vigil organized by outCT and called to fight against hate.

    “Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) was started in 1999 by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith as a vigil to honor the memory of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was killed in 1998,” according to the website of GLAAD, a nonprofit LGBTQIA+ advocacy organization. “The vigil commemorated all the transgender people lost to violence since Rita Hester’s death, and began an important tradition that has become the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance."

    Moss-Savage said since Transgender Day of Remembrance last year, “393 souls were taken from us internationally.” Among them, “109 souls were taken from us nationally,” 85% of whom were transgender women and 70% of that percentage were Black, she said.

    Moss-Savage said so many times the crisis becomes a “them problem and not an us problem” because people may not realize it is happening in the communities where they live or work. As the vigil particularly focused on honoring the eight souls lost from New England, she said, “We are shining a blinding light on what is happening in our local community.”

    “The trans community is tiny,” said Kris Wraight, an outCT board member who is non-binary and uses she or they pronouns. “We’re 1 percent of the population, so ending this pandemic ― the murders, the suicides fed by hate ― cannot be done by us, and must be done by the cisgender community. It is you all who we need to take on in this fight in the same way that we white people need to end racism.”

    Wraight delivered a call to action for the community to raise their voices and take steps that included: If you don’t know what pronouns to call someone, ask them and tell them yours, and apologize if you mess up; if you’re cisgender, know you’re cisgender and say it; know that transgender is not a noun but an adjective and just a small part of who someone is; stop having gender reveal parties; stop conflating sexuality and gender identity; and stop talking about gender identity and sexuality as a “lifestyle.”

    During the event, the Rev. Carolyn Patierno of All Souls Unitarian Universalist Congregation in New London said a prayer and outCT President Cecil Carter sang “Amazing Grace.”

    “The fact that we stand here in our city and celebrate our tolerance and celebrate our respect for these individuals and recommit ourselves to fighting against this type of intolerance and this type of hate, it just makes me very proud of our city,” Mayor Michael Passero said.

    k.drelich@theday.com

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