November 20th, 2019, marks the 20th Transgender Day of Remembrance. Observed every year since 1999, the day honors the memory of trans people whose lives have been lost to hatred and violence. Trans people are targets of harassment, shocking discrimination, violent, hateful attacks, and even death in societies across the world, including in countries with legislation and policies in place to protect people on grounds of gender identity and expression.
Recent years have seen significant progress in recognition of the human rights of trans people. The World Health Organization removed gender dysphoria from the international classification of diseases in 2019. Countries in different parts of the world have passed legislation to protect transgender people, including the Protection of Transgender Person's Act in Pakistan in 2018, or the Comprehensive Law for Trans Persons in Uruguay. The latter even foresees the provision of monetary reparations to trans individuals persecuted and harassed by state agents under the Uruguayan dictatorship. Yet trans people continue to be among the most marginalized groups in societies, with thousands of trans lives lost every year.
In recent years a backlash against recognition of the human rights of LGBTIQ people has been growing, with especially vicious targeting of trans people. Efforts to change the definition of gender to one based on biological sex in the US, shocking rates of murder of trans people in Brazil, Turkey or Georgia, guidance issued from the Vatican effectively denying the existance of trans people, all serve to fuel hatred and violence, and increase the already high rates of murder of trans people across the world.
Today we remember those whose lives have already been lost to hatred, purely because societies have not come far enough to accept that sometimes people's gender identity or gender expression does not match the sex assigned at birth.
We have a long way to go to achieve justice and acceptance for trans people. The progress which continues to take place gives me hope that one day we will prevail, but we must continue to fight and to stand up against increasing backlash and the very denial of the existence of trans people. After all, trans people have existed, do exist, and will continue to exist in societies across the world. Trans rights are human rights.
Published on November 19, 2019 | OutRight Action International an LGBT human rights organization