November 20 marks Transgender Day of Remembrance, an annual observance that aims to preserve the memory of transgender lives we've lost to anti-transgender violence in the past -- like Rita Hester, Angie Zapata and Islan Nettles -- and to raise awareness of such violence as it exists in the present.
The very first Transgender Day of Remembrance was held in San Francisco in 1999. Founder Gwendolyn Ann Smith was motivated by the 1998 killing of Rita Hester in Massachusetts, and how quickly her people she knew had forgotten the murder of Chanelle Pickett only three years prior.
"No one I spoke with [at the time of Rita Hester's murder] knew who Chanelle Pickett was," Smith wrote in The Huffington Post in 2012, "even though the trial of her murderer, William Palmer, had ended only months before Hester's death. It seemed clear to me then that we were forgetting our past, and were -- to paraphrase George Santayana -- doomed to repeat it."
Angie Zapata of Colorado was another young woman who was fatally attacked for being transgender. Her killer was convicted of a bias-motivated crime, along with first-degree murder, the following year in 2009.
This marked the first time that a hate crime conviction had resulted from a transgender person's murder in the United States.
At present, only 15 states have laws that address hate or bias-motivated crimes based on gender identity.
One of those 35 states without hate crime statutes providing individuals and their families with legal recourse against anti-transgender acts of violence is New York, where Islan Nettles was slain in 2013. The investigation into her killing remains open.
Islan Nettles (left), Angie Zapata (right)
Today, there are Transgender Day of Remembrance events planned far beyond the Castro's border, from the Netherlands to Singapore. But, rather than a cause for celebration, this reach highlights how prevalent anti-transgender violence is all over the world.
According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs' 2013 report on Violence Against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and HIV-affected Communities in the United States, anti-LGBTQ hate violence disproportionately impacts the lives of transgender women, transgender people and transgender people of color.
Of the 2,001 incidents studied in the report, 72% of the homicide victims were transgender women, and 67% of the homicide victims were transgender women of color.
If you want to get involved with your local Transgender Day of Remembrance this year, visit tdor.info to find information on the nearest vigil or gathering in your area. And for even more ways to support transgender individuals in your community, visit trans.lookdifferent.org.
"Laverne Cox Presents: The T Word" re-airs today on Logo TV at 10/9c, followed by a Twitter chat at noon.