For the Rev. Doug VanDoren and his Plymouth United Church of Christ congregation, the Transgender Day of Remembrance is all about solidarity. It's a day to forgive, but not forget. In collaboration with the Transgender Education Collaboration, an organization that seeks to educate communities on transgender issues, the church in Grand Rapids, Mich., will host the event for the second time Sunday, Nov. 18.
The Transgender Day of Remembrance is a day to memorialize those who have died as a result of their transgender status or their perceived sexual identity, and to bring attention to the continued violence endured by the transgender community. It was founded in 1998 and is celebrated annually on Nov. 20.
"This event sends the message that we won't forget the people who have been killed and those who have been desperate enough to take their own lives," VanDoren said. "We are committed to working for a society that promotes acceptance and celebrates people as they are, as the gender that they understand themselves to be"
To begin the event, the name of each person who died last year will be read during a candlelight vigil. People will then tell their stories and experiences with being transgender, followed by music, poetry and performance art. VanDoren expects about 120 people to participate, including congregation and community members and transgender individuals and their families, and hopes the event conveys a hopeful, but serious message.
"It's a service of remembrance moving to hope," VanDoren said. "We want a commitment from folks who are there that this [violence] should not continue to happen."
The Diversity Center of Northeast Ohio will also sponsor the Transgender Day of Remembrance this weekend, on Saturday, Nov. 17, at Cleveland City Hall. During this event, the Rev. David Loar of Fairlawn West UCC in Akron will receive the Diversity Center's "Cisgender Ally Award," given to cisgender-identified individuals who work within Northeast Ohio through activism, advocacy and education to create a more inclusive community. (Cisgender is defined as where an individual's self-perception and presentation of their gender matches the behaviors and roles considered appropriate for one's sex.)
The Northeast Ohio Transgender Day of Remembrance will include a candlelight vigil, a variety of speakers, music by the North Coast Men's Chorus and a special tribute to those who have been lost and those who continue to fight for acceptance of the transgender community.
"This is really just a part of our solidarity, a part of our standing with transgender people," said VanDoren. "Welcoming them, learning from them, and being in community together."