Reflections of a Thai TransGender Activist on the Transgender Day of Remembrance

“What is Transgender Day of Remembrance?” I asked myself when I heard about this day for the first time. I had never heard of Transgender Day of Remembrance before and had never experienced why the day is so special and important to transgender people. I would be unable to answer if people asked me to share what we have done on this day in my country. Honestly, I might have even thought that Transgender Day of Remembrance isn’t important to an activism and the transgender movement in Asia, but I see now this isn’t the case.

As a transgender person, I always feel insecure when I travel to somewhere I am not familiar. Since I was born, people often brought me down intentionally or unintentionally for being transgender. I feel like we, transgender people, have the same feelings of fear and sometimes we bring those fears to ourselves. Fear of being transgender or of being yourself, known as transphobia, is internalized, which affects the way you see yourself. “It’s wrong and uncommon to be transgender” I thought when I was young.

Why don’t we have rights to live the way we want? Why do these fears often follow us like a nightmare? Pain from violation and harassment can go away in time but they always leave fear and phobia to one who experiences anti-transgender violence. I can’t tell how to handle fear and move on with pride and dignity if there is so limited space in this world we, transgender, feel safe and comfortable. We need respect and a place where we can feel warm and safe just like the other.

I started looking for information about Transgender Day of Remembrance on the Internet. “What a meaningful day!” I said to myself after I read some of the articles about its beginning and purpose. The event has been held on 20 November every year since 1999. It is an occasion in the LGBT community set aside to memorialize those who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice.

A second question that occurred to me: “Why are we, Asian activists, rarely related to this special event?” It doesn’t mean there is less violence against transgender people in Asia than in other parts of the world. It also doesn’t mean we are ignoring the fact that more than one person has died monthly due to transgender-based hate or prejudice. But we, activists from Asia, need a better connection with allies from western countries where the Day of Remembrance was first started. We, transgender people, need to get together around the world to raise and promote messages of ending violence against transgender people.

Any ignorance from the public, the media and government can lead to violence against transgender people and can increase discrimination against transgender people in society. Hate crimes against transgender people never end because law enforcement in many countries will not even attempt to solve most murder cases against us. Governments and the public need to be more aware of our issues and need to take action in order to stop hate crimes against transgender people and those who identify themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and gender-non-confirming people.

As an activist, Transgender Day of Remembrance reminds me why others and myself have been advocating for the rights of transgender people in the past year and how this work brings change to the public awareness of violence against transgender people. I realize that there is a lot to do to change the attitudes of people and society. These challenges we have been facing give an opportunity to ally with stakeholders like other transgender groups/organizations in different regions, LGB organizations, the feminist movement, media, governmental organizations, United Nations agencies and other non-transgender folks to stop all forms of violence against transgender people. Anti-transgender violence should be the responsibility of everyone including, these individuals, and institutions.

I haven’t been to any event to commemorate people who pass away because of hate but I always feel sad whenever I hear about someone killed senselessly. I am in sorrow for people who lost their loved ones in the past year. Transgender Day of Remembrance is a concrete proof that violence against transgender exists. We, wherever we are, can’t sit and dream of the world free from gender bias and all forms of violence, we need more action and commitment to stop this violence.

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Tamara Adrian - Lawyer, Professor at Law, Trans Woman