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Remembering Members of the Transgender Community

December 9, 2020

On November 20, the Port of Seattle’s Transgender Inclusivity Committee held an event to honor and remember the victims of violence against transgender people in the United States. 

Transgender Awareness Week is a week when transgender people and their allies take action to bring attention to the community by educating the public about who transgender people are, and advance advocacy around the issues of prejudice, discrimination, and violence that affect the transgender community. 

Transgender Day of Remembrance is a national initiative every year on November 20 to honor the memory of the transgender people whose lives were lost in acts of violence. The movement was started in 1999 by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith as a vigil to honor the memory of Rita Hester, a transgender woman. Police have still not found her murderer. And the tradition of honoring victims of anti-transgender violence has continued. This event raises public awareness of the problem, honors the lives of those lost across the country, spreads respect for transgender people, and supports the family members and friends of those killed.  

In case you don’t know, here are recent statistics of violence against transgender people:  

  • In 2019, 26 transgender people were killed in acts of violence in the U.S. 
  • In 2020, at least 40 transgender or gender non-conforming people have been killed in the United States Source: Human Rights Coalition 
  • In the first seven months of 2020, the number of transgender people suspected of being murdered in 2020 surpassed the total for all of 2019 Source: the National Center for Transgender Equality 
  • At least 350 transgender people have been killed worldwide in 2020 Source: Forbes 
  • One-fifth (22 percent) of transgender people killed were murdered in their own homes Source: Forbes 
  • About 85 percent of the victims of violence were misgendered and are not reported as to their preferred gender, which can delay reporting and demonstrates a lack of respect Source: GLAAD 
  • In a recent survey of transgender people, 57 percent of all respondents said that they were afraid to go to the police when they needed help. And 58 percent of transgender people who interacted with law enforcement reported experiences of harassment, abuse or other mistreatment. More than 60 percent reported being physically assaulted and 64 percent reported being sexually assaulted Source: the National Center for Transgender Equality 

The Port’s event recognized those who lost their lives in 2020 in the United States and honored them with a reading of their names and a short description of their lives and reflections from their friends and family.   

Gender identity in Washington 

In the United States, more than one in four transgender people have lost a job due to bias, and more than three-fourths have experienced some form of workplace discrimination. Source: National Center for Transgender Equity 

One in five transgender people in the United States has been discriminated when seeking a home, and more than one in ten have been evicted from their homes because of their gender identity. Source: National Center for Transgender Equity 

There is not consistent protection for transgender individuals in every state in the U.S. However, Washington State RCW Chapter 49.60 prohibits discrimination on the basis of a person’s sexual orientation, gender expression and identity, actual or perceived gender identity. These protections apply to accommodation, restaurants, hotels, public schools, housing, employment, and credit and insurance transactions.  

Learn about the Rights of Transgender People in Washington State from the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington. 

Gender identity at the Port 

On November 20, 2020 Executive Director Metruck proudly introduced a new policy and procedure that sets forth guidelines to assist in addressing the needs of transgender and gender non-conforming employees in situations where questions may arise about how to protect their legal rights or safety. 

The Port’s policy states “The Port of Seattle does not discriminate in any way on the basis of sex, gender identity, or gender expression or as protected by federal, state or local law.” 

The new human resource policy was put into place to ensure equitable and respectful treatment of transgender or gender non-conforming employees and customers who use Port and SEA Airport facilities. The goals are to: promote their safety, comfort, health, and wellness; eliminate barriers to their full workplace integration; and eradicate stigmatization. The policy explicitly states that the Port expects departments and employees to welcome and support transitioning, gender diverse, and transgender Port employees.  

This protection also applies to transgender travelers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and the Port’s partners. We’re committed to ensuring that all travelers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) feel respected, comfortable, and welcome.

Port employees who attended the event shared their reflections: 

In the last several months, like so many others, I’ve been made more aware of the critical importance of standing up for others and of the outsized influence granted by my privilege. In college, I was lucky to see a friend of mine come out as transgender firsthand and heartbroken to have a transgender member of my broader community lose their life much too young. It was important to me to attend this event to honor those two individuals, all the transgender people I know both here at the Port and in the community, and the people we remembered who lost their lives to violence this year.

In the racial justice discussions here at the Port, a theme I’ve picked up on is that racism is a problem created by white people and that making progress to solve it is only possible if we stand up for the dignity of BIPOC folks even when they’re not in the room. As a cis, hetero, white man, I must stand up for transgender people in exactly the same way. By attending this event, I hope I did my little part to show that trans people deserve lives free from physical and emotional violence and deserve dignity. I felt a mix of emotions after the event – I was heartbroken for those we remembered and their loved ones and disappointed that there were so many names on the screen, but I also felt hope and relief. I was relieved knowing that employees across departments and age groups are also willing to stand up for our colleagues and hopeful because I know that we have the capacity as a group to make real, powerful change, both within the Port and in the broader community.  — Oliver Konkel 

I attended this event to support my Transgender colleagues as well as learn about the history and day.  I have a close friend who is trans and hoped this event would also help me better understand my friend’s experience has been. This event was critical to shining a light on an issue that is often invisible to many. 

After the event, I felt melancholy for the beautiful lives lost and sad for the families and friends who have lost a loved one.  I also felt elevated knowing how many people at the Port helped present and that there is a strong community within the Port to help move the work forward to end discrimination and violence. We have a much longer journey ahead of us than I had imagined.  — Kelli Goodwin 

I attended the event to take a stand against hate and discrimination. It was a good way to raise awareness of transgender issues and bring attention to the inequalities they face. We all needed to remember those in the transgender community whose lives have been lost to violence, marginalization, and prejudice. I believe that by showing our support of transgender people, we are doing our part to help end ignorance surrounding transgender issues. — Hanane Bush 

I attended this event because the person closest to me lives this every day and every bit of attention this brings may help her to live her life just like I live mine. Education to an unknown will allow people to understand this as oppose to believing everything they have been told. No one has the right to judge another’s life and all people are human beings and should be treated as such. Treat everyone as you wish to be treated — it is as simple as that. After attending, I felt very sad to know human beings’ lives were taken for no other reason than someone else’s hatred.  — Anonymous 

I attended the event to show my support and solidarity with the transgender community. These events are a necessary way to bring to light a terrible injustice in our world.  The senseless killing of these people and the less notoriety because they are trans is shocking.  The saddest part is that without events like these, most, if not all of these slain people would be forgotten.  

A day of remembrance is a very somber event.  While sitting there and listening to the names of these people being recognized is a tragedy and makes me hope that the future will be kinder for everyone. Events like this are very important and makes me realize that we are a long way away from stopping violence toward the LGBTQ community, especially the trans community.  It is great that the Port has a Transgender Inclusivity group that raises awareness and take the lead on initiatives like this. — John van Deinse 

I learned and felt a lot at this presentation. I felt sad seeing photos and hearing the personal stories of real people and their personalities. Transgender people don’t deserve to die for expressing who they are. I felt happy that the people killed by violence were getting the recognition and honor that they deserved, especially if they did not get it while they were alive.  

One fact I learned is that posting my preferred pronouns doesn't necessarily benefit the person posting. Instead, it normalizes the conversations about gender preference within an organization, makes it a standard and ordinary point of conversation throughout the organization, and hopefully makes it easier and hopefully more comfortable for transgender people to state their own pronoun preferences. It also demonstrates respect and consideration for transgender people in vulnerable positions so that they don’t have to start the conversation. Discussing pronouns up front enables transgender people to decide who they are and which gender they want to be called, which makes their journey easier.  — Anonymous 

How you can help 

Here are a few tips:

Transgender awareness resources 

Learn more from one of these organizations and websites:

National resources 

Gender Spectrum — works to create gender-sensitive and inclusive environments for all children and teens 

Human Rights Campaign  — a network that empowers their members and supporters to mobilize against attacks on the most marginalized people in our community  — resources on personal pronouns 

National Center for Transgender Equality — a national organization that advocates to change policies and society to increase understanding and acceptance of transgender people 

Sylvia Rivera Law Project — works to guarantee that all people are free to self-determine gender identity and expression, regardless of income or race, and without facing harassment, discrimination or violence 

Trans Lifeline – run and operated by trans people, it’s a peer support and crisis hotline and provides financial support, legal advice for name changes and updating birth certificates, and more 

Trevor Project – a national suicide hotline for queer and trans youth 

Washington resources 

Gender Diversity — an organization that increases the awareness and understanding of the wide range of gender diversity by providing family support, build community, increasing societal awareness, and improving the well-being for people of all gender identities and expressions.  

Gender Odyssey — an international conference based in Seattle focused on the needs and interests of transgender and gender diverse children of all ages, their families and supporters, and the professionals who serve them.  

Gender Justice League  — to create a Washington State where all people can live their lives safely, true to themselves, and free from discrimination. 

Ingersoll Gender Center  — an organization by and for transgender and gender nonconforming people in Seattle providing mutual support through peer led support groups, advocating in navigating resources, community organizing, and education  

Lavender Rights Project — in Tacoma provides legal advocacy and community education by and for LGBTQ communities 

Top image credit: "Transgender Pride Flag" by tedeytan is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

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