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Zichrona L’vracha: Transgender Day of Remembrance

This December marks the 20th anniversary of the horrific murder of Brandon Teena. Brandon was 21 years old in 1993 when two of his “friends,” John Lotter and Tom Nissen, beat and brutally raped him and later ended his life.

What could elicit such hatred? Why would Brandon Teena face such a gruesome and tragic end to his life?

Brandon, while preferring to dress as a male, was biologically female and Lotter and Nissen did not approve. As if enduring physical abuse weren’t bad enough, when Brandon reported the rape and assault to the police, they were indifferent to his trauma, asking insensitive inquires about the incident and questioning his choice to identity as male.

Stories like Brandon Teena’s are abhorrent – not only was Brandon the victim of terrible violence that took his life, but his plea for help was ignored.

Fourteen years ago, Gwendolyn Ann Smith and a group of other transgender individuals established Transgender Day of Remembrance  to raise awareness around transgender violence and to commemorate those whose lives have been lost. Transgender people are grossly marginalized and their deaths are often overlooked. You can read the statistics for yourself – they are certainly disturbing; but when you hear the story of Brandon Teena, you remember that each number represents an individual murdered for being who they are.

The same year Gwendolyn Ann Smith launched the observance of Transgender Day of Remembrance, an acclaimed movie about Brandon Teena’s life, “Boys Don’t Cry,” was released. For the first time, the deaths of transgender people were recognized and memorialized by a broad swath of society. Today, Transgender Day of Remembrance is observed all over the world and since its inaugural year, there has been tremendous legislative steps taken to help bring justice to those who have faced anti-transgender violence. Transgender Day of Remembrance is not meant to be a singular day of awareness; it is an annual wake-up call to the violence and discrimination transgender people continue to face today.

Let us continue to fight for the rights and respect of transgender individuals, and on this Transgender Day of Remembrance, let us say: zichrona l’vracha, may their memory be for a blessing.

Picture Courtesy of the Human Rights Campaign

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Sophie Golomb

About Sophie Golomb

Sophie Golomb is a 2013-2014 Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the RAC. She graduated in 2013 from Brandeis University and is originally from Brooklyn, NY where she is a member of Brooklyn Heights Synagogue.

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