Mayor Erin Mendenhall and the Salt Lake City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to recognize November 20 as Transgender Day of Remembrance.
The resolution was passed November 17 during a council meeting and the resolution can be viewed here.
More than 300 flags are on display at the Salt Lake City and County building, and a pair of virtual events are planned for Friday to remember and mourn those we've lost.
The transgender and gender non-conforming community is facing an epidemic of violence, and too many lives have been lost. While there are those who try to depict the safety and dignity of transgender folks as a political issue: we are simply your friends, family and neighbors who wish to pursue happiness alongside our peers. TEA of Utah applauds Salt Lake City for recognizing the struggles we face in a time when such support is often misconstrued as controversial.
Candice Metzler, TEA of Utah Executive Director, read the following remarks at Tuesday's council meeting:
"Rita Hester was murdered on November 28, 1998. Her death sparked the movement that has become the International Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day that is now recognized on the 20th of November each year. Her surviving family lost a loved one, and like similar families, had to come to grips with the violence that takes too many innocent lives each year due to hate towards transgender and gender-nonconforming people. This form of hate is generally entangled with intersecting factors like race, gender expression, and socioeconomic status, but it always has the markers of extreme violence and a blatant disregard for the sanctity of life.
Rita’s surviving family is reminded of this tragedy every year now, but they understand something that most of us do not, who Rita was as a living person. The connections and passions Rita had in life. The struggles and triumphs that we all experience, share, celebrate, and overcome with family and friends. Rita is not just a face or a name on a website for them, and her memory is more than a story of a tragic death.
According to The Remembering Our Dead website, for more than a decade, at least one person is killed every month “due to transgender-based hate or prejudice, regardless of any other factors in their lives.” Since November of last year, at least 34 people have been killed in the U.S., and more than 300 globally, from this violence. Today, as is the case with many of these situations, Rita’s murder is yet to be solved. The perpetrator(s) of her murder never facing consequences for their hateful actions.
While gathering to memorialize these lives is a way of bringing love and respect to the people killed each year, it is also critical that we seek to understand the seeds of this violence so we can end the cycle of violence. If nothing else, 2020 has taught us that life is fragile and our ability to live and thrive is tethered to our social conditions. We have seen the best of humanity in the doctors, nurses, and frontline workers who endure great risk to their own personal health and wellbeing to keep people alive and our society functioning. We have also seen the worst of humanity in the disregard for personal responsibility and accountability for the health and wellbeing of others, and a seemingly growing tolerance for unnecessary death and misery.
If we teach our children intolerance towards some people, does intolerance then become a tool that can be used against any person for any reason? Once dignity and respect is removed from value for one life, is it not then easier to disregard such things from other lives. The fact that so many lives continue to be taken from this violence each year is a reflection of who we are as a society and what we really value and are willing to tolerate. In reality, what is happening to these lives and our response to the violence can, in part, help us understand how we are becoming a people who seemingly have a growing tolerance for unnecessary death and misery.
When we teach love to the world when we make love and respect part of who we are as individuals, families, communities, and society. It becomes part of our social DNA. These lives matter, we say their names because they still matter in death and deserved better in life. We gather to call on leaders in our communities and throughout the world to acknowledge this ongoing tragedy, and we want meaningful action to bring those who have perpetrated such hateful acts to justice. We want meaningful change in policies and laws to help convey a clear message that this behavior is unacceptable and we want to see actions that back up such claims.
We call on the people of our communities and nation to be defenders of dignity, love, and respect for all people, and to teach such things through example. Through our actions and not just our words. Perhaps, through such efforts, this memorial service can one day come to represent more than an annual event that denotes an ongoing tragedy and injustice. On that day, Rita Hester will come to represent a struggle that we overcame together, and a triumph that we share as a human family. Each of us has an active role to play in making that vision a reality."