Activists to hold Transgender Day of Remembrance vigils, marches around the country
Ethan St. Pierre misses his aunt Deborah Forte everyday, but the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance remains a stark reminder of how Forte was brutally murdered in 1995 because of her gender identity and expression.
"I was called in to identify the body," St. Pierre recalled to EDGE. "She was unrecognizable."
November 20 marks the TDOR’s 11th anniversary. And St. Pierre remains passionate about honoring those murdered individuals who identified as transgender.
A man whom Forte met at a bar brought her back to her apartment and stabbed her numerous times. The suspect turned himself into local authorities two weeks after he killed Forte. A judge sentenced him to 15 years in jail, but he has yet to show remorse--and he is up for parole.
"Every bone in her neck was broken," St. Pierre further recalled.
Gwendolyn Smith founded the TDOR in San Francisco in Nov. 1999 as a way to "memorialize those who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice." The vigils have grown in scope to over 200 internationally, and are held in November specifically to coincide with the anniversary of Rita Hester’s murder in her Boston apartment in Nov. 1998.
The exact statistics are not known, but the TDOR database that St. Pierre updates indicates there have been 120 trans murders since last year’s commemorations. St. Pierre added there is approximately one trans murder a month in the United States.
More than 300 domestic trans murders have been recorded since 1970 with 11 recorded so far this year.
California leads in total trans homicides at 57, followed by 36 in New York. Texas and Florida follow with 20 anti-trans murders in each state.
Saint Pierre said he believes the actual numbers of deaths are much higher due to under reporting or misreporting. He added he feels many reports do not include the victim’s gender identity or expression.
"Often times," he says, "it can be risky to report the victim as transgender because the queer family can be ostracized."
Saint Pierre further described anti-trans homicides as not just simple murders, but those with a horrid element meant "to obliterate us and make us go away." He said most victims are tortured or burned before their assailant or assailants kill them. Some are dismembered and decapitated. And others are shot in the face or genitals.