Remembering lives lost to anti-transgender violence
BJC invites all team members to take a moment on Nov. 20 — the International Transgender Day of Remembrance — to remember those who have lost their lives to anti-transgender violence. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) defines transgender, or trans, as an umbrella term for people whose gender identity or expression is different from those typically associated with the sex assigned to them at birth (e.g., the sex listed on their birth certificate).
It’s an opportunity to acknowledge the frequent, often deadly, violence perpetrated on transgender people and to stand for an end to that violence, says Steve Mapes, Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Missouri Baptist Medical Center health information manager and SPECTRA (LGBTQ+) Connection group co-lead.
Transgender Day of Remembrance began in 1999 as a vigil to remember Rita Hester, a transgender woman murdered in 1998. It grew into a day to memorialize and give a voice to all victims of anti-transgender violence.
HRC reported about 22-25 transgender or non-gender-conforming people in the U.S. are confirmed targets of fatal violence each year since 2015. In 2019, however, that number rose to 27. By Oct. 25, 2020, at least 34 transgender or gender non-conforming people have been reported murdered across the country. But the HRC suggests many more victims are not recognized, due to misgendering in law enforcement and media reports. The majority of the lives lost are black and Latinx transgender women, revealing what HRC considers to be “an epidemic of violence that disproportionately targets transgender people of color.”
We do know, however, that violence against the transgender community is not a recent phenomenon.
“Sadly, devastation from perpetual transphobic acts of discrimination, oppression and lethal violence are not new and are far from infrequent,” says Megan Gallagher, BJC Institute for Learning and Development analyst and liaison and SPECTRA Connection co-lead.
SPECTRA stands for Support, Pride, Equality, Camaraderie, Trust, Respect and Alliance. The group focuses on training BJC team members to better support the needs of the LGBTQ+ community. Participating in Transgender Day of Remembrance is a way to show that support.
“This is our opportunity to start or, hopefully, continue sharing the many stories about our transgender family in our community,” says Mapes. “This is our call to be an advocate against prejudice and violence that too often harms or causes loss of life to our transgender friends and family.”
While it’s important to memorialize those who have died, Transgender Day of Remembrance can be a time to do even more, says Laurie Reynolds, pharmacy technician at St. Louis Children’s Hospital and member of the transgender community.
“To me, it’s important to take a moment and honor those in my community who have had their lives taken from them, often brutally, for living authentically. I use this time to mourn with my community,” says Reynolds. “But seeing all those we’ve lost in a year brings to the forefront the need to raise awareness of trans and gender non-conforming issues.”
Gallagher suggests that BJC employees should view the day as a way to live BJC’s mission of improving the health and well-being of the communities we serve — this includes the transgender community.
“Observing Transgender Day of Remembrance is a beginning,” she says. “Educating ourselves further is still the beginning. Affirming and loving others, like and unlike us, nourishes and saves lives. Affirming and loving others illuminates your courage, strength and bravery. By the very definition, that makes you a hero. We are 31,000+ BJC caregivers. We can all be heroes too.”
Learn more about Transgender Day of Remembrance.
Diversity and inclusion are a big part of BJC’s identity, and an important step to inclusiveness is connecting with and understanding one another. To learn more about BJC Connections groups and how to get involved, visit www.bjc.org/Connections.