‘More needs to be done.’ Transgender Day of Remembrance memorializes those killed

Dozens gathered for the Transgender Day of Remembrance vigil at Austin City Hall. (KXAN/Todd Bailey)
Dozens gathered for the Transgender Day of Remembrance vigil at Austin City Hall. (KXAN/Todd Bailey)

AUSTIN (KXAN) – Monday night hundreds are expected to gather at Austin city hall for the Transgender Day of Remembrance. Between November 2016 and this year, 29 transgender men and women were killed in the United States.

“It’s an epidemic and primarily it’s transgender women of color that are murdered, and a lot of times if we look at minority populations they have lack of access to resources,” says Mason Vaughan, organizer of Transgender Day of Remembrance.

In Austin, the death of Monica Loera in 2016 sparked policy changes at the city and police level after she was wrongly identified as a man in the media for more than a week. Her death and the misidentification of her as a man highlighted the lack of a state-mandated standardized process for legally changing names and gender. As a result, APD announced it was launching new policies to protect LGBTQ Austinities by conducting domestic violence training and transgender search procedures. City council passed a resolution asking the city manager to organize a stakeholder group of local transgender and gender-nonconforming advocates to make recommendations for policies to prevent future identity issues among APD.

Still, advocates hope tonight’s event shows more needs to be done.

“I’d like to say we are inclusive, we are ahead of some other cities, but until the day everyone has adequate access to resources so they can gain employment and do something with their life, we have a lot of work to do,” Vaughan says.

In the trial for Loera’s death, the man accused of shooting and killing her, JonCasey Rowell, ended this month with a guilty verdict and a sentence of 20 years in prison. Vaughan says this type of justice doesn’t always happen and more needs to change.

“A lot of states don’t have a sufficient way to say this is a hate crime and this is how we are going to prosecute,” Vaughan says. “And, for every one there is five or 10 that go unreported and prosecuted as a hate crime, so we try to come together as a community and memorialize them.”

Anyone is welcome to attend the Transgender Day of Remembrance at city hall at 7:30 p.m. The names of those killed and others who have taken their own lives over the last year will be read aloud. Organizers will have badges for those who do not want to be photographed because they aren’t prepared to publicly come out as transgender.

The Transgender Day of Remembrance started in 1999 with only 30 people attending and this year upwards of 300 are expected to attend.

“My hope is for future generations is they will know that they are worthy and just because you are different doesn’t mean you don’t deserve to be treated like everyone else,” Vaughan says.

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