The International Transgender Day of Remembrance is Nov. 20. To better understand the annual observance, the issues facing the transgender community and how the MGH can be more gender affirming, Asher Bruskin, LICSW, of the MGH Transgender Health Program and MGH Infectious Diseases Clinic, shares his thoughts.

What is the Transgender Day of Remembrance?

Transgender Day of Remembrance is a memorial vigil observed every year on or around Nov. 20 to honor lives lost in the previous year to acts of anti-transgender violence.

The observance began in 1999 as a vigil for Rita Hester, a transgender woman living in Boston, who was murdered. Hester’s friends and community came together to honor her memory, and over the years the annual memorial has grown to take place in communities throughout the world.

Why is it recognized?

There is an established history of transgender and non-binary people, along with many others with marginalized identities, being killed or ending their own lives without acknowledgement of their humanity. The act of mourning is an act of affirming that transgender and non-binary people exist and that they deserve to be remembered in ways that honor their full sense of selves. Transgender Day of Remembrance is also a community event that honors the resiliency of those who remain active in working for justice.

What needs to change to end this violence?

Anti-transgender violence does not exist on its own. Structural violence and systemic oppression cause the conditions that leave many transgender and non-binary people vulnerable to both interpersonal violence and to persistent bullying and degradation. These structural conditions particularly allow for more targeted and deliberate acts of violence against transgender women of color due to their multiple marginalized identities. In order to disrupt and undo violence on the individual level, we must work to change the larger systems that allow and legitimize hate-based violence.

What can I do to support the transgender community on Transgender Remembrance Day and in general?

On Nov. 20, the MGH Transgender Health Program and the MGH Spiritual Care Department will host a memorial vigil in the chapel.

It is important to affirm the worth all people – especially of transgender and non-binary people – including patients, staff, colleagues and visitors. Use and respect the names and pronouns people share with you. Be sure to review MGH policies and training materials that uphold MGH’s dedication to making everyone feel welcome and supported as a gender-affirming medical center and home.