This article has been updated to include Daniel Aston, 28, who was one of the five victims killed in a mass shooting at an LGBTQ bar in Colorado Springs on Nov. 19.
Nov. 20 marks the 23rd Transgender Day of Remembrance — a day honoring transgender and gender nonconforming people who were killed in acts of violence. The occasion started in 1999 to memorialize the homicide of transgender woman Rita Hester in Allston, Mass.
While 23 years have passed since the first recognition, anti-transgender violence continues to be a prevalent issue throughout the U.S., rooted in decades-long stigmas and discrimination.
“Trans remembrance is a day in which we as a nation chose to celebrate and maybe commemorate and remember those fallen and murdered folk,” Grace Detrevarah, an LGBTQ activist, told In The Know. “I get very, very angry when anyone … tries to water it down to make something bearable to read and say things like, ‘They passed away through violence.’ No, call it for what it really has been. It continues to be murder.”
Grace Detrevarah is an LGBTQ liaison and health facilitator at the Osborne Association, a social justice group that provides services to families and communities affected by the criminal justice system. Detrevarah went through the Osborne Association after she was incarcerated and credits the organization with saving her life.
Detrevarah ran away from home to New York City in 1983, when she was 19 years old. She was taken in by sex workers, drag queens and trans women who protected her and taught her how to survive.
“You have to always remember that this was the time … where someone [transgender] was considered mentally ill, considered sick, even by those who today call themselves our allies,” Detrevarah explained. “Today, I see myself as a descendant of Marsha.”
Detrevarah is referring to Marsha P. Johnson, a gay liberation activist who is credited with being one of the prominent figures in the Stonewall uprising in 1969 — which happened 14 years before Detrevarah came to New York, but nonetheless had a tremendous impact on how Detrevarah carries herself, even today.
“You would see Marsha everywhere. You would see her in Midtown Manhattan, here in lower Manhattan or Uptown,” Detrevarah described. “She was just a walking truth-teller.”
Even though LGBTQ rights and acceptance have come a long way from when Detrevarah was growing up, Detrevarah still thinks that if Johnson had been walking around today with the same tenacity and vocalness she had in the 60s and 70s, it still would be too much for the general public.
“We would not congratulate her. We would not celebrate her the way we do now,” she said. “If she was living today, she would continue to set [new] standards of what freedom looks like.”
That’s why Detrevarah says she’s a descendant of Johnson, because there is still a fight for freedom, acceptance and protection to be had — and not just on Nov. 20 of each year.
“Understand that there’s always been some form of violence when it comes to the LGBTQIA community,” she said. “When it comes to Black, Latino and trans nonconforming individuals, in the last eight years, there has been this trend of murdering [them].”
In 2022 alone, 33 transgender and gender nonconforming people have been killed in the U.S. In 2021, 50 fatalities were recorded. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), which published the statistics, said that 32 deaths is very likely lower than reality because trans people’s deaths often are unreported or the victims are misgendered in the reports.
Over the last decade, the HRC found that in over 40% of the recorded cases where a trans or nonconforming person was killed, “no arrest has been made and the killer remains unknown or a named suspect remains at large.”
“I would hope that in the month of November that we don’t only just set aside a week, a moment, a second to remember those fallen and those murdered, that we also remembered the other 11 months that there are others that need to be remembered throughout the year,” Detrevarah said.
“Every trans story does not equal misery,” she continued. “We understand the word resilience.”
In memoriam: The reported 33 transgender and gender nonconforming victims who were killed in 2022
Amariey Lei, 20, from Wilkinsburg, Penn.
Duval Princess, 24, from Jacksonville, Fla.
Crypress Ramos, 21, from Lubbock, Texas
Naomie Skinner, 25, from Highland Park, Mich.
Matthew Angelo Spampinato, 21, from New Castle, Del.
Paloma Vazquez, 29, from Houston
Tatiana Labelle, 33, from Chicago
Kathryn “Katie” Newhouse, 19, from Canton, Ga.
Kenyatta “Kesha” Webster, 24, from Jackson, Miss.
Miia Love Parker, 25, from Chester, Penn.
Ariyanna Mitchel, 17, from Hampton, Va.
Fern Feather, 29, from Morristown, Vt.
Ray Muscat, 24, from Independence Township, Mich.
Nedra Sequence Morris, 50, from Opa-locka, Fla.
Chanelika Y’Ella Dior Hemingway, 30, from Guilderland, N.Y.
Sasha Mason, 45, from Zebulon, N.C.
Brazil Johnson, 28, from Milwaukee
Shawmaynè Giselle Marie, 27, from Gulfport, Miss.
Kitty Monroe, age unknown, from Cordova, Tenn.
Martasia Richmond, 30, from Chicago
Keshia Chanel Geter, 26, from Augusta, Ga.
Cherry Bush, 48, from Los Angeles
Marisela Castro, 39, from Houston
Hayden Davis, 28, from Detroit
Kandii Reed, 29, from Kansas City, Mo.
Aaron Lynch, 26, from McLean, Va.
Maddie Hofmann, 47, from Malvern, Penn.
Dede Ricks, 33, from Detroit
Mya Allen, 35, from Milwaukee
Acey Morrison, 30, from Rapid City, S.D.
Semaj Billingslea, 33, from Jacksonville, Fla.
Tiffany Banks, 25, from Miami
Daniel Aston, 28, from Colorado Springs, Colo.
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