In the spirit of remembrance and healing, the Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP-USA) and SWOP chapters from around the United States join gender advocates and sex worker allies from around the world in recognizing November 20th, the International Transgender Day of Remembrance. Each chapter of Sex Workers Outreach Project celebrates Transgender Day of Remembrance every year by either joining with already existing initiatives and/or planning events. As we approach this day, we seek to come together to remember those who we have lost this year, and to renew our commitment in the on-going struggle for empowerment, visibility, and rights for all transgender people and their loved ones. For more information or to get a list of events happening in your area please visit the Transgender Day of Remembrance website.
Transgender people are subjected to violence a on a daily basis in all countries around the globe. Due to the fact that many forms of sex work are illegal, “sex workers are denied protection with basic labor practices and human rights standards. If attacked or assaulted by a client, there is often no legal recourse. Marginalized groups such as trans women are among the most vulnerable. This becomes terrifyingly clear when we gather annually for the Trans Day of Remembrance. The list of murder victims heavily features sex workers, most of whom are trans women of color.” (Standing Against the Criminalization of Sex Work, DC Trans Coalition, 2010).
Here are some statistics with regard to trans-identified people:
* 33.2% of transgender youth have attempted suicide. Clements-Nolle K., Marx R., Katz M. (2006). Attempted suicide among transgender persons: The influence of gender-based discrimination and victimization. Journal of Homosexuality, 51(3): 53-69.)
* 55% of transgender youth report being physically attacked. (GLSEN. (2003). The 2003 national school climate survey: the school related experiences of our nation’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth.)
* 74% of transgender youth reported being sexually harassed at school, and 90% of transgender youth reported feeling unsafe at school because of their gender expression. (GLSEN. (2001). The 2001 national school climate survey: the school related experiences of our nation’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth.)
* In a survey of 403 transgender people, 78% reported having been verbally harassed and 48% reported having been victims of assault, including assault with a weapon, sexual assault or rape. (Wilchins, R., Lombardi, E., Priesing, D. and Malouf, D. (1997) First national survey of transgender violence. Gender Public Advocacy Coalition.)
Furthermore, one study of 6,456 transgender people in the United States found that 45% of transgender individuals in the survey reported being uncomfortable seeking police help. Also telling is that 71 % of survey respondents who have interacted with police reported being treated with disrespect by officers’ (Testimony of the National Center for Transgender Equality, 2009). With such a high number of transgender people feeling uncomfortable seeking police help, it is unlikely that many – if not most – transgender sex workers would seek the help of law enforcement altogether. The result of having no legal recourse for sex workers – let alone transgender sex workers – creates a breeding ground for abuse, not only by clients, but also by the police themselves.
The International Transgender Day of Remembrance was originally developed as a response to the murder of Rita Hester in 1998. Her murder still has yet to be solved, but what began as a tragedy now also serves as a day to remember the global violence that occurs against transgender people. SWOP-USA commemorates the Day as a memorial and vigil for the victims of gender-related hate-crimes.
During the week of November 20th, queer and sex worker rights organizations all over the world create public awareness and vigils to raise consciousness about violence that is commonly committed against transgender people. These events also often address the intersection of issues relating to stigma and discrimination that allows violence and oppression to occur with impunity. We seek to raise awareness about the barriers faced when attempting to report violence, and promote empowerment and change what has become an unacceptable status quo.
Every year, the International Transgender Day of Remembrance becomes more embedded in our consciousness as a reminder to all people — allies and transgender people alike — that we are brothers and sisters of unique and brilliant identities. November 20th functions as a reminder about the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, friends, colleagues, and allies who have been lost this year to violence. Please join us in our effort to make fundamental human rights accessible for transgender people and to end the silencing that they experience every day.