FIU Honors Transgender and Nonbinary Community for Transgender Day of Remembrance

Marking the 20th anniversary of Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR), the FIU community commemorated the lives of transgender and nonbinary people who have been tragically murdered. Jesse Fraga/PantherNOW

Jesse Fraga/Staff Writer

Marking the 20th anniversary of Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR), the FIU community hosted one of more than 20 events held in Florida commemorating the lives of transgender and nonbinary people who have been tragically murdered.

While this day originated as a vigil to honor the life of Rita Hester, a transgender women murdered in 1999, over time TDOR has developed into an international day of action.

Since then, hate crimes against transgender individuals have increased to at least 23 documented deaths in the U.S. this year alone, according to the Human Rights Campaign website.

The two-day event, between Nov. 20 through Nov. 21, drew in more than 100 guests, between both the Modesto A. Maidique and Biscayne Bay Campuses.

Volunteers from the LGBTQA+ Initiatives at FIU placed a patch of flags on the Graham Center Lawns, creating a large scale trans flag, with informational signs along the sidewalk.

Pink and blue flags on the Graham Center Lawns created a large scale trans flag.

One of the signs said, “Trans women of color are two times as likely to be physically attacked by a stranger in public compared to trans women who are white.”

Fellow trans and nonbinary students, community activists, performers and keynote speaker Xaria James passionately spoke on their personal experiences, both positive and negative, in an effort to inspire the audience to live as their truest selves.

James is a Miami-based athlete, activist and public speaker who provided others with a unique perspective on her life as a trans woman of color.

 

In her speech, she touched upon how misgendering someone can become a major aspect of how one may perceive themselves.

“If you don’t know if it’s a girl or if it’s a guy, just say ‘Hi, how are you?’ That goes a long way,” said James.

Miami-based athlete, activist and public speaker Xaria James (center) poses with FIU students after giving a speech on her experience as a trans woman.

In an attempt to ease the somber tone of the evening, queer performers, including a singer, poet and guitarist, were asked to perform pieces they felt could lift people’s spirits by celebrating themselves.

While TDOR is typically observed as a memorial or service, organizers catered to the college crowd by transitioning from a gloomy day of memorium at MMC to an empowering day of celebration at BBC, recognizing the victories and triumphs these people experienced.

Bronwen Bares Palaez, the Dean of Students, was given the opportunity to speak on behalf of FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg to present a list of ongoing efforts that seek to create a safer and more socially aware community for respecting fellow trans and nonbinary Panthers.

Some efforts include the Out and Proud Scholarship, Emergency Aid, Opt-In Safe Training, Creating Change Conference, Pride Tribe Therapy Group and Faculty Pronoun Usage Workshops.

Among the group of distinguished speakers was English major and sophomore, Oliver Brantome.

As an agender intersex person, they explained their identity to the audience by saying, “I am not a boy, or a girl, or a mix of both, nor a spot in between. I am me.”

Following the speaker’s stories and artistic performances, supporters gathered around the Graham Center Pit for a candlelit vigil while names of trans people who have been murdered in 2019 were sadly recited.

The crowd grew in number while students stood by a trans flag, placing roses and candles beside it to recognize each of the 23 deaths.

  Two more roses were displayed to acknowledge the deaths of who may not have been documented due to misgendering, misnaming or unknown circumstances.

A somber moment of silence was offered in remembrance of the trans individuals who were killed.

Walking out with tears in his eyes, audience member and FIU biology major and junior Noel Risco reflected by saying, “I went to this event because I want to be the best ally I can be to the trans community.”

Backing up this point, he added, “One of the most important people in my life identify as trans nonbinary and I’m very proud of them. I wanted to be there to show support and gratitude.”

While the fight for equality among the transgender and nonbinary community is not over, Erica Jayne Friedman, the Associate Director of LGBTQA+ Initiatives at FIU, closed the vigil by admitting they hope this event will be unneeded in the future.

In other words, they will have won their fight.

Just as Xaria James said, “Your experience is what you make it.”

Candles and roses placed down by the FIU community to commemorate the lives lost to transphobia.

Photos by Jesse Fraga/PantherNOW

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