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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Transgender Day of Remembrance, Fighting For Recognition


UMass Boston students gather to remember transgender victims of hate crime.


 Let’s be honest, there’s a good chance that you haven’t heard of Transgender Day of Remembrance. How often do we actually think about the “T” in LGBT? Over the years there have been far too many cases of hate crimes that have been motivated by an individual’s sexual preference. Often, what prompts these crimes are motivations of fear and ignorance. Human sexuality is incredibly complicated – how should one view the sexuality of a transgender person? If he or she are post-op, does that mean that they’re still technically transgender? In a Family Guy episode from season 8 titled “Quagmire’s Dad”, Lois and Peter Griffin have a conversation with Quagmire as to how to describe Dan Quagmire’s sexuality (who undergoes a successful sex change operation during the episode). Because Dan Quagmire (newly named Ida) was originally a man, Lois and Peter maintain that her attraction to men makes her gay. Quagmire, becoming increasingly frustrated with how the conversation is going, and tries to explain that his father, now technically his mother, was simply a woman trapped in a man’s body – at least that’s how it was explained to Quagmire. The conversation itself, in typical Family Guy fashion, is quite comedic. Nonetheless, it raises some serious question (even if it handles them insensitively).


If we adopt Lois and Peter’s logic, then our views on crimes committed against transgender people take a clear and definitive stance. One would have to say that any and all crimes committed against transgender men and women are motivated by homophobia. But is this necessarily the right way to view this subject? I interviewed a student here at UMass whose name is Stephanie Bonvissuto to discuss some of these issues. Stephanie is also the activities organizer for the QSC (Queer Student Union).


What is Transgender Day of Remembrance?

The Transgender Day of Remembrance is the day set aside to remember those members of the trans community who have been killed, murdered in the previous twelve months for simply being trans or being perceived to be trans.


When did it start?

I believe it started in the late ‘90s. Actually, a trans woman who was murdered in the area here, her name was Rita Hester. It was her death that started the day of remembrance.


Rita Hester was 34 years old when she was found dead in her apartment in 1998. This story is tragic for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that it achieved considerably less national attention than the murder of Matthew Shepard which happened five weeks earlier. Today there are still questions asked concerning Rita Hester’s murder, such as: would there be more national exposure if she were a white male like Shepard? There are many more questions that are unanswered, but what is certain is the effect these kinds of crimes have had on the LGBT community and what the lack of attention and action means. Stephanie is noticeably disappointed when I ask her about the support she’s seen from outside the community, “Not a lot,” she answers, “I mean, we certainly have our straight allies which I’m very thankful for. But on the most part, the greatest amount of support has come from the LGBT community.”


She also mentions some religious institutions that she has found particularly supportive and that she and the rest of the community is grateful for.


Her response to the previous question puts everything into perspective and highlights just how important and unknown this issue really is.


“I would love to see more support!” she says enthusiastically. “I would love to see more from the political arena, also from the social work field, and especially just from the general media.”


So there you have it! Ask what you can do to help out because these issues are very real and very important. For information visit the Queer Student Center on the third floor of the Campus Center.