What started as a web project in the late ’90s has since evolved into an annual vigil. On Nov. 20, the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) vigil will be held at the University of Winnipeg (U of W) in Riddell Hall. Community members will give speeches and read the names of the transgender people who have died over the last year.
Shandi Strong has been the head organizer of TDOR for the last three years but had been an attendee for years prior.
“The first TDOR I went to, there was about a dozen people in a snowy parking lot holding candles, shivering and reading names,” Strong says. “It’s since grown to be a large event with a hundred or so community members and allies in attendance.”
TDOR has been held at many locations over the years, including Thunderbird
House and the parking lot of Red Road Lodge. In recent years, the need for an accessible and centrally located venue has been a priority for organizers as attendance numbers increase.
“We’re a fairly informal group. We get together once a year to make this event happen, and the people involved changes every year,” Strong says. “We make a strong effort to ensure that this event is run only by people in the trans community.”
Xavier Raddysh is a student at the U of W who has attended TDOR for the past three years.
“At the first vigil I attended, I read off some of the names of the trans people who had been murdered that year. It was pretty emotional,” Raddysh says. “No disrespect to people who don’t attend the vigil. It can be triggering, especially if you’ve been violently attacked before.
“I think that it’s a reality check for people. I feel like most people think that the oppression that trans people face isn’t as bad as it used to be, which isn’t true,” he says.
Jocelyn Mallette is the coordinator for the Women and Trans Spectrum Centre at the U of W. They feel that the university intersects with many communities, making it a space that most people would feel comfortable being in.
“Having the vigil here sets a precedent for trans students,” Mallette says. “It sends the message that trans students’ well-being is important to the university, and that they are safe here.”
Organizers and community members are also considering how to balance the needs of a diverse community. Strong says organizers would like to find a venue in the future where smudging during the event is possible. However, it can be hard for some people to be in a room with heavy smoke.
Allies are welcome to attend TDOR in solidarity, but Raddysh says that they need to know their place at the event.
“I’m okay with allies coming to the vigil in solidarity. It’s important that they are aware of the space that they occupy at the event though,” Raddysh says. “Come, sit at the back and be quiet. Transgender Day of Remembrance is sacred. We are mourning our dead.”
Everyone is welcome to attend TDOR in Riddell Hall at 6 p.m. on Nov. 20. Light refreshments will be served, and ASL interpretation will be provided.
Published in Volume 72, Number 10 of The Uniter (November 16, 2017)