A memorial service to commemorate the International Transgender Day of Remembrance was held in Hertford’s chapel on Sunday.
Transgender Day of Remembrance is a day set aside to memorialize those who have been killed as a result of anti-transgender hatred or prejudice, and to raise public awareness of hate crimes against transgender people.
This is only the second time such a service has been held in Oxford, but the Trans* Day of Remembrance has itself been running for over twenty years, and was begun in San Francisco. The service, led by an emotional Lyman Gamberton, Trans* rep for the LGBTQ Society, was well attended, with around forty people, both trans* and non-trans*.
For the LGBTQ Society, after a week of partying at Queerfest, the service was a sombre moment of reflection and grief.
The service itself was simple, including the lighting of candles, and a reading of the names of those who have died as victims of transphobia and the manner in which they died. The memorial concluded with a reading of the poem, ‘For Marsha P. (Pay It No Mind!) Johnson’, by Qwo-Li Driskill, commemorating the death of a prominent American transgender rights activist, whose murder led to the inauguration of Transgender Remembrance Day.
Gamberton, an undergraduate at Brasenose, told The Oxford Student: “The Trans* Day of Remembrance is important because it gives us, as a community, a way to stand in solidarity with all other trans* and gender-variant people across the world: trans* people, especially young people, often feel very isolated and afraid, and while the Day of Remembrance is a memorial service, it’s also a reminder that none of us are alone.
“Even those who have died are still part of this community, because we mourn them and use this opportunity to call for justice for them, and press for fairer and more thoroughgoing investigations into trans*-related hate crimes.”
In reference to the increased attendance at this year’s service (at last year’s only, six had attended), Lyman said that this is “a very encouraging sign, and one which gives me great hope”.
One student who attended the service, but did not wish to be named, commented, “The enumeration of the ways in which the victims were killed was difficult to listen to, but managed to communicate viscerally the need for political action to prevent more transphobic violence.
“It was heartening to see so many people there: hopefully there’ll be even more next year to remember those who have been taken from us by hatred and ignorance. The poem read out at the end was especially moving, as could be seen by the reactions of those present.”
Though the service was not well advertised, news of it has been received as a sign of progress, and a mark of improvement in public awareness of trans* issues.
Amy Davis, English fresher at Merton, commented, “It’s a shame that more people don’t know about the issues surrounding transphobia; when I heard about it from my friends I wished that I had gone to the memorial because I think everyone should know more about it. Hopefully next year even more people will come along”.