A service was organised last week by the LGBTQ Society to commemorate Transgender Day of Remembrance and the victims of transphobic violence.
The secular service held at Hertford Chapel consisted of a reading of the names, ages and locations of transgender people killed in hate crimes over the past year, accompanied by piano music.
Candles were lit and ‘Poem for Marsha P. (Pay It No Mind!) Johnson’ by Qwo-Li Driskill was read.
Approximately 15 people attended, a decrease from last year’s attendance of about 40, but organisers believe this was due to timetabling issues; last year’s service was on a Saturday, not a Wednesday.
Abi Buccaneer, one of two Trans* Reps for the LGBTQ Society, described the atmosphere as “Somewhere between sombre and depressing– it’s hard for it not to be when somebody reads out a list of hundreds of people who were murdered for being like us.”
David Wigley, a second year PPE student at New College and the other Trans* Rep, explained this further, saying: “Most of the people attending the service were transgender and so there is a personal emotional connection in remembering the victims of transphobic hate crimes.”
After the service, there was an informal social gathering. Wigley explained, “The service is basically a funeral for all transgender people who have been murdered for being who they are over the last year. So it was a sad occasion. Like most funerals, afterwards we went to get a drink together, so it wasn’t an overwhelmingly negative experience.”
The date, 20 November, is a worldwide day of action to memorialize those killed as a result of transphobia, and services typically include readings similar to this one. The list of murder victims is always several hundred names long – sometimes the names of victims are not even known.
Wigley further commented: “We use the service as an opportunity to carry out a vigil for those people, and to challenge their invisibility. By calling out their names, we actively remember and respect them and place their lives and deaths within a global epidemic of transphobic violence.”
Abi Buccaneer also spoke about the high rate of violence against trans* people: “It’s also to remind ourselves and everybody else that trans people do get murdered at an alarming rate simply for existing, and this is one of the reasons we fight for trans rights the rest of the year.’
A recent victory in this area is gender neutral subfusc and the University publication of new guidelines on students and staff transitioning while at Oxford. Both reps stressed the importance of implementing these guidelines at a college level.
Wigley added, “At the moment, most cisgender students understand very little about what it means to be trans, and in order to make the university a welcoming and inclusive place for everyone we need to change that.”