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100 people gather for Transgender Day of Remembrance

November 21, 2011

About 100 people gathered at Plymouth United Church of Christ last night to participate in a program for the Transgender Day of Remembrance.

Transgender Day of Remembrance is always celebrated in late November in memory of Rita Hester, a visible member of the Transgender community who was murdered in 1998. The following year, friends of Rita organized a vigil, not only in memory of Rita, but of all people who have been victims of hate crimes targeting the transgender community. Transgender Day of Remembrance has now become an international day of solidarity.

Rev. Doug Van Doren from Plymouth church welcomed people and invited them to collectively mourn the loss of members of the Transgender community over the past year.

At that point the sanctuary became dark and several people with candles began reading the names of members of the Transgender community. After each person read a name(s) they blew out their candle until all the candles were extinguished.

The next part of the event involved members of the Transgender community sharing their personal stories. One person read a poem, while the other two recounted their own journey. One of the most moving comments made was, “An authentic life is the best life to be living.” This comment spoke to how important it is for all of us to be true to who we are.

The featured speaker for the evening was Julie Nemecek, an ordained pastor, professor and member of the Transgender community. Julie began by saying this is a day of honoring and remembering those in the Transgender community, but it is also a day to acknowledge those who have been victims of hate and Transphobia.

Julie then read part of a poem from John Dunne, No Man is an Island. The speaker said the lives we remember and mourn, are our lives. For whom the bell tolls is an important point for what Transgender Day of Remembrance should be. Julie tells the audience about being in England and watching the bell ringers. Bells would toll to signal someone’s death, but what Dunne was saying and what Julie wanted us to hear is that the bell tolls for all of us…..and we should remember.

Julie, then cited the writer Edmund Burke who said, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.” The speaker then talked about going to a memorial service of a young transgender person who took his own life. At the service for this person, people asked what could they have done to prevent it. Julie said, “Silence is the greatest enabler” and then looked at the audience and said, “I know you are good people. Don’t do nothing!”

The speaker also cited US President Abraham Lincoln and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in quoting Lincoln it was in reference to not forgetting the dead at Gettysburg, which translated into the audience not forgetting members of the Transgender community, which have died. The Dr. King quote was for all of us not to be satisfied until justice rolls down from the mountain like a mighty river. Julie wanted us to commit to seeking justice and acknowledge the struggle continues and even recognized those in Holland who were willing to risk arrest for justice.

Julie finished her comments by citing Susan B. Anthony, a woman arrested for voting, who refused to pay the fine and died 13 years before women won the right to vote. Anthony said, “Failure is impossible.” Julie believes this to be true and acknowledged recent changes in our culture and gain made by the LGBT community.  Julie ended her comments by repeating the line from Susan B. Anthony, “Failure is impossible!”

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