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Trans Day of Remembrance held at Old Main

Pascal Albright

Alex Kelser places a candle in the fountain outside Old Main during Transgender Remembrance Day on Nov. 16. Kelser, among others, placed multiple candles in the water to remember the lives lost.

The Trans Day of Remembrance was held Thursday Nov. 16 evening in front of the fountain at Old Main. Members of the Tucson transgender community, as well as allies, gathered to honor and mourn over the past year’s murders of transgender people. 

The event was hosted by the Associated Students of the University of Arizona, the Pride Alliance, the LGBTQ Affairs and the Southern Arizona Gender Alliance, and has been held at the
UA since 2009. 

However, this year was slightly different.

“This year was more somber,” said Abby Louise Jensen, the vice president and General Counsel for Southern Arizona Gender Alliance. “It was good.” 

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According to Jensen, in previous years, a guest speaker or musician was asked to be part of the event, but this year it was more sincere and heartfelt.

The event began with a speech from Martie Van der Voort, a counselor with CAPS who has and continues to help transgender students at the UA. 

“I hate Trans Day of Remembrance. I hate the fatalities,” Van der Voort said. She proceeded to discuss her transition and life now, while continually reinforcing the idea of “home” — what that term should mean, and it what it meant to her. 

She also touched on the stories of two transgender people who were murdered in Arizona in 2015. 

Van der Voort then made way for Erin Russ, the director of programs for Southern Arizona Gender Alliance, to take the stage. 

Russ also briefly touched on her transition before explaining how the Trans Day of Remembrance was originally founded.  She went on to discuss the logistics for the rest of the event, mentioning in particular that no suicides would be mentioned in the list of transgender people that had died. 

“Too many trans die by their own hand,” she said. “They will not be in the list; however, they will still be remembered.”

Volunteers were then asked to come to the stage and read names from the list. The majority of people rose and made their way to the right of the stage to be given a name to read. They would then line up and read the name given to them, in front of the microphone. 

From there, they walked over to the left of the stage, where they were given a candle to place in the fountain, in the honor of the transgender people who had been murdered that year.  The list, which had 325 names, was read in order of the day of passing. 

Candles floating in the Old Main fountain represent the lives of Transgender people lost in the last year during the Transgender Remembrance Day on Nov. 16, 2017.
Candles floating in the Old Main fountain represent the lives of Transgender people lost in the last year during the Transgender Remembrance Day on Nov. 16, 2017.

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Along with each name, the ages, dates and location were also read. Most volunteers circled around to go through the process over and over again until all names had been read. 

Before the event concluded, all present formed a circle, holding hands, around the candle-filled fountain for a moment of silence. 

“We encourage you to think about what you can do when someone tells a joke about trans people,” Russ said, closing out the event.

Jensen echoed those sentiments. “We can’t change everybody, but we can make it socially unacceptable. Just stand and let everyone know that bias against trans people is unacceptable.”

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