Transgender Day of Remembrance


Transgender people experience high levels of physical violence such as murder, assault and rape. International Transgender Day of Remembrance takes place each year on the 20th of November to highlight this and remember those who have passed away as a result.

Transgender people—transsexuals, gender non-binary identities and cross dressers to name a few—are people whose gender identity or expression differs in some way from the assumptions made about them based on society’s understanding of gender. In this system, there is the expectation that all males must be masculine and identify as men and all females must be feminine and identify as women and that ‘men’ and ‘women’ are the only two possible gender identities. As a result, strict expectations are placed on behaviours and expressions which underpin sexism and feed into homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, and gender based violence. Gender based violence is defined as:

Any form of violence used to establish, enforce or perpetuate gender inequalities and keep in place gendered orders.  In other words gender based violence is a policing mechanism” (James Lang 2002).

This violence can cause physical and emotional harm, and the fear that it may occur can be debilitating or constrain how individuals live their lives. Gender based violence perpetrated against transgender people includes all actions and behaviours intended to undermine or curtail their gender identity or expression in any way. The violence isn’t limited to murder, suicide and rape, but includes assault, groping of transgender people to highlight their physical bodies, verbally undermining their sense of self, or threats to harm or out them to others. It also includes transgender people’s experiences of domestic abuse and the way that trans people—particularly transsexual women—are sexualised in LGBT specific media and pornography aimed at heterosexual men.

The Equality Act 2010 currently only protects transgender people from discrimination, harassment and victimisation on the grounds of gender reassignment and not transgender identity (as protected in Scottish hate crime legislation). This narrow approach serves to reinforce the binary system of gender and could be seen as structural violence. 

Rather than feeling helpless in response to the high levels of violent abuse perpetrated against transgender people, you can take action to interrupt the everyday forms of violence. They are often dismissed as ‘harmless’, go unnoticed by others, or are unreported by transgender people due to fears of retaliation or discrimination or previous experiences of discrimination. Some violence may appear to have fewer negative consequences because the violence is not as visible. Exclusion and verbal rejection breed transphobia, including internalised transphobia, which can have dire consequences for emotional, physical and mental health. These forms of violence create social acceptance of the marginalisation of transgender identities. 

So, this International Day of Transgender Remembrance, take time to reflect on the individuals who have passed away as a result of transphobic hate crimes, but also consider how you can make a difference to the violence experienced. Confronting discrimination and violence against transgender people sends a clear message that they are valued and included. You have the power to interrupt everyday violence through simple steps: challenge language that degrades transgender people or reinforces a gender binary, raise awareness of transgender people’s experiences, review your service’s policies to ensure that they are trans-inclusive, ensure that all staff understand the support needs of transgender service users, and undertake anonymous monitoring of staff and service users that includes a question on transgender identity to highlight potential service needs.

Further info:                                                                                    

The LGBT Charter of Rights programme can help you ensure that your service is inclusive. Further information on transgender identities is available for young people here.

On the 18th of November 2014, the Beyond Gender youth group is hosting a Human Library and Art event on the subject of ‘Growing Up Trans*’.

On the 20th of November, LGBT Youth Scotland and the Scottish Transgender Alliance are holding a roundtable discussion at the Scottish Parliament, hosted by David Torrance, MSP. The event will raise awareness of transgender young people’s experiences in education. 

This blog was originally written for and posted on Scottish Women’s Aid’s blog