Activists to hold Transgender Day of Remembrance vigils, marches around the country

Gwendolyn Smith founded the TDOR in San Francisco in Nov. 1999 as a way to “memorialize those who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice.”

Ethan St. Pierre misses his aunt Deborah Forte everyday, but the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance remains a stark reminder of how Forte was brutally murdered in 1995 because of her gender identity and expression.

“I was called in to identify the body,” St. Pierre recalled to EDGE. “She was unrecognizable.”

November 20 marks the TDOR’s 11th anniversary. And St. Pierre remains passionate about honoring those murdered individuals who identified as transgender.

A man whom Forte met at a bar brought her back to her apartment and stabbed her numerous times. The suspect turned himself into local authorities two weeks after he killed Forte. A judge sentenced him to 15 years in jail, but he has yet to show remorse–and he is up for parole.

“Every bone in her neck was broken,” St. Pierre further recalled.

Gwendolyn Smith founded the TDOR in San Francisco in Nov. 1999 as a way to “memorialize those who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice.” The vigils have grown in scope to over 200 internationally, and are held in November specifically to coincide with the anniversary of Rita Hester’s murder in her Boston apartment in Nov. 1998.

The exact statistics are not known, but the TDOR database that St. Pierre updates indicates there have been 120 trans murders since last year’s commemorations. St. Pierre added there is approximately one trans murder a month in the United States.

More than 300 domestic trans murders have been recorded since 1970 with 11 recorded so far this year.

California leads in total trans homicides at 57, followed by 36 in New York. Texas and Florida follow with 20 anti-trans murders in each state.

Saint Pierre said he believes the actual numbers of deaths are much higher due to under reporting or misreporting. He added he feels many reports do not include the victim’s gender identity or expression.

“Often times,” he says, “it can be risky to report the victim as transgender because the queer family can be ostracized.”

Saint Pierre further described anti-trans homicides as not just simple murders, but those with a horrid element meant “to obliterate us and make us go away.” He said most victims are tortured or burned before their assailant or assailants kill them. Some are dismembered and decapitated. And others are shot in the face or genitals.

“One woman,” he says, “was branded on her breasts with a hot iron while the aggressor told her that she was not real.”

Saint Pierre added he feels this hatred and rage against trans individuals stems from homophobia. He said some individuals find themselves attracted to trans or gender variant people, can’t accept it, and then want to erase the man or woman to whom they are drawn from existence.

“It is really hard to see the pictures of these beautiful people, so smiling and young,” St. Pierre said as he noted those murder victims to which the TDOR Web site pays tribute. “These are people that should not be forgotten.”

Day of Remembrance vigils will take place on Nov. 20-21 around the country. Below are a list of commemorations that will take place in cities EDGE specifically covers.

The Metropolitan Community Church of Las Vegas (1140 Almond Tree Lane) will hold a vigil on Nov. 20 at 7 p.m. Log onto for furthe information.

Two vigils will take place on Nov. 20-21 at 6:30 p.m. at the Chapel at MCC Sunshine Cathedral on 1480 SW Ninth St. in Fort Lauderdale. Log onto for further details.

Chicago’s Center on Halsted will hold a vigil on Nov. 21 at 5:30 p.m.

The city of West Hollywood, Calif., will hold a memorial service and march to Matthew Shepard Square on Nov. 20 at 7 p.m. Log onto for further information.

San Francisco’s Congregation Sha’ar Zahav (290 Dolores St) will hold a vigil on Nov. 20 at 7:30 p.m. Log onto for more information.

A vigil will take place at Baltimore City Hall on Nov. 20 at 6:30 p.m.

Saint Luke’s and St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church (5 St. Luke’s Road) in Allston, Mass., will host a vigil on Nov. 20 at 7 p.m. Log onto for more information.

Also log onto for further details about additional vigils and other commemorations.

For more on this story, click the EDGE link.

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