Transgender Day of Remembrance 2021


Hannah Michelle Bussa

Omaha’s TDOR candlelight ceremony event this year features speakers Dr. Jay Irwin, Director of UNO’s Women’s & Gender Studies, Spencer K. Danner, Jr., NDP Vice Chair, and the River City Mixed Chorus. The theme is An Evening of Love & Hope. Photo courtesy of River City Gender Alliance via Facebook.

Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) is observed annually on Nov. 20 to honor the memory of the transgender people whose lives were lost in acts of anti-transgender violence.

Eli Rigatuso is the founder of Speaking of Happy, Omaha’s only LGBTQIA2S+ media outlet. He is an Omaha, Nebraska, native who identifies as queer; he is a transmasculine Two-Spirit of the  Menominee Nation.

“Every year we have to witness violence and defend our humanity in all kinds of areas from politics to sports to employment to comedy just being able to live and thrive in a world that still pushes an anti-transgender agenda,” they said.

He said anti-trans violence causes harm, like families being separated and youth dying by suicide in numbers much higher than their cisgender counterparts. This comes from a lack of knowledge and awareness when it comes to people who are transgender, nonbinary and gender nonconforming.

“It is vital to highlight and honor those whose lives are lost to violence and honor who these people were to the communities they lived in,” Rigatuso said. “To our community, they are not just a statistic, they are people just like us. Sadly, the numbers this year are the highest on record since TDOR was founded.”

Rigatuso said it is important to note that every year, these numbers are the largest for Black transgender women. They are at the greatest risk. The average life expectancy of a Black transgender woman is 35 years of age.

“TDOR was started in 1999 by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith as a vigil to honor the memory of Rita Hester, a Black transgender woman who was killed in 1998,” they said. “The vigil commemorated all the transgender people lost to violence since Rita Hester’s death and began an important tradition that has become the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance.”

Rigatuso said people can commemorate TDOR in a variety of ways, not just for the lives taken, but for the people who are still here as well, by showing support and solidarity to the community.

“First, if you are unable to make it to an event, take some time to learn about the lives that were taken,” he said.

The following names are the lives that were taken this year. Read more about their stories here.

  • Tyianna Alexander, also known as Davarea Alexander
  • Samuel Edmund Damián Valentín
  • Bianca “Muffin” Bankz
  • Dominique Jackson
  • Fifty Bandz
  • Alexus Braxton, also known as Kimmy Icon Braxton
  • Chyna Carrillo, also went by Chyna Cardenas
  • Jeffrey “JJ” Bright
  • Jasmine Cannady
  • Jenna Franks
  • Diamond Kyree Sanders
  • Rayanna Pardo
  • Jaida Peterson
  • Dominique Lucious
  • Remy Fennell
  • Tiara Banks
  • Natalia Smut
  • Iris Santos
  • Tiffany Thomas
  • Keri Washington
  • Jahaira DeAlto
  • Whispering Wind Bear Spirit
  • Sophie Vásquez
  • Danika “Danny” Henson, also went by Pryynce Daniel and Niia Da Don
  • Serenity Hollis
  • Oliver “Ollie” Taylor
  • Thomas Hardin
  • Poe Black, also went by Oliver Jackson and Legion
  • EJ Boykin, also went by Novaa Watson
  • Aidelen Evans
  • Taya Ashton
  • Shai Vanderpump
  • Tierramarie Lewis
  • Miss CoCo
  • Pooh Johnson
  • Disaya Monaee
  • Briana Hamilton
  • Kiér Laprí Kartier
  • Mel Groves
  • Royal Poetical Starz
  • Zoella “Zoey” Rose Martinez
  • Jo Acker
  • Jessi Hart
  • Rikkey Outumuro, also known as Tru Starlet
  • Marquiisha Lawrence
  • Jenny De Leon

“Second, become knowledgeable,” Rigatuso said. “Don’t just assume that you know what you need to know to honor and affirm the folks who are part of your community. Be proactive in your support and watch a documentary about who we are.”

He said he strongly recommends everyone watch Disclosure on Netflix, a documentary that chronicles over 100 years of trans representation on screen.

Rigatuso suggested buying and reading books written by folks in the community, like I Have Always Been Me by Precious Brady-Davis and Ariel O’Donnell’s poetry. Both authors are from Omaha.

Rigatuso also suggested purchasing works from transgender, nonbinary and gender-nonconforming artists and musicians, like Omaha’s Dominique Morgan or Ang Bennett.

“Many of these artists and musicians are also advocating tirelessly for the community as well as trying to engage in their artistic endeavors,” they said. “Hire them to come speak to your groups about how you can support the work they are doing right here in Omaha.”

Rigatuso said to realize that many others are also multi-marginalized and either unemployed or underemployed due to stigma and ignorance, and their art and expression is all they have to live on.

“Lastly and likely most importantly, speak to your employer and ask if they extend benefits to folks who are transgender, non-binary, and gender-nonconforming who work for your organization or company and if they do not advocate for that to change,” Rigatuso said. “Find out if there are policies established to provide support to anyone who may be transitioning in your workplace.”

If not, Rigatuso said to hire a transgender led organization to consult with your HR team to train them and help create these policies.

“Having cisgender people speaking on behalf of transgender, NB, GNC or Two Spirit people typically leads to more problems in the long run,” Rigatuso said. “Our lived experience speaks volumes.”

River City Gender Alliance is also hosting a TDOR event on Nov. 20 in Omaha. Register for the free event here.