Helping Everyone Regardless of Orientation held a candlelight vigil Friday evening at the bell tower to remember American transgender individuals who were murdered in 2018.
Sophomore Simon Hamilton lit 23 candles: 22 for the known murder victims and the last candle to represent those lost to suicide and victims whose trans identities were erased by their families when they died.
Hamilton noted the majority of the victims were trans women of color and the number of victims is equal to the number in 2017.
One of the focuses of the vigil was the lack of justice in cases with transgender victims.
According to lgbtbar.org only three states have outlawed a gay or trans “panic” defense: a legal strategy which asks a jury to find that a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity is to blame for the defendant’s violent reaction, including murder. Similar to an insanity plea, the defendant may confess to the crime and not be charged.
HERO Activities Coordinator junior Daph Bergren said violence against trans people often comes from strangers, but it can also come from family, friends or partners.
“Five of the women were killed in a week in the Tallahassee (Florida) area,” Bergren said. “It’s terrifying to think that could have happened to anyone I know. The founder of Miss Trans America was killed by her partner.”
The vigil concluded with a moment of silence.
HERO President Trip Carlson noted that the turnout--17 people--at this event was the highest it’s been in the seven semesters he has been involved with HERO.
“I saw way more people than I was expecting to get in the cold on a Friday night,” Carlson said. “I think it's important to attend events like this because it shows your trans peers solidarity. With your support, our trans members can feel more comfortable knowing that they have allies on their side to call out hateful rhetoric and stand up for their rights.”
Carlson has been the president of HERO for a year and was previously vice president for a year before that. Reflecting on his time as an executive member, he said one of the biggest ways HERO has changed its conversations about trans lives was creating open meetings this semester.
“In the last few years, though trans people have been seeing increasing representation in news and entertainment, it is too often a misrepresentation of reality,” Carlson said. “With that in mind, HERO has been playing around more with openly inviting all students so they can directly listen to our trans members and what they can do to be better trans allies.”
Bergren was elected next semester’s HERO president, and they said the new executive board will hopefully expand the conversation about trans lives and the trans experience.
“Our new e-board this coming semester only has one cis person on it, and I think that will help us come alongside other trans folks and find ways to support them better,” Bergren said. “Overall, I think it's going to be a lot of making sure that we're celebrating trans folks not only on Trans Day of Remembrance and Trans Day of Visibility but making it a point to highlight trans folks during Black History Month, Pride Month and other memorializing events that are important to our community.”
Hamilton, the HERO vice president elect, said the organization’s trans committee and gender-non-conforming committee will continue to work on creating events to educate the Northwest community about trans issues and celebrate trans lives.
Carlson said his primary takeaway from the event was positive change starts with individuals and small communities.
“There is so much more our communities and country needs to be doing to defend transgender lives,” Carlson said. “If we start with shifting the culture within our personal spheres, the impact can be enormous.”
Bergren said the best ways to support trans people are being educated about pronouns, hormone replacement therapy, non-binary genders and dysphoria and being vocal about allyship.
“The best thing you can do is support the trans people you know is tell them something that you notice and you admire about them,” Bergren said. “When it comes to strangers if you find yourself in a situation where you may have to defend someone who is trans, realize that it's not as difficult as it may seem. Sometimes all you have to do to protect someone is show them that they are welcome in a space others may see them as invading in.”
Hamilton said the best ways to support trans people are doing independent research rather than asking a trans friend every question and asking if they need you to come with them and support them.
“If you hear someone misgendering someone and/or putting down trans people, say something; it doesn’t have to be a big scene,” Hamilton said. “Offering to even go to the bathroom with your trans friends is a huge step. In this school, I’ve been chased out of the bathroom on three different occasions. I do not use public bathrooms anymore unless I know I am the only one in there, or if I had a friend come in with me.”