Today, I found out from a friend that November 20th is Transgender Day of Remembrance. I’ve never heard of it before. Yet, I can see it’s a big deal to her and her spouse, so I wanted to learn more about it and share it with you all.

Transgender Day of Remembrance; What is it?

According to Wikipedia, Transgender Day of Remembrance is an annual event. It remembers people that died as a direct result of transphobia. Or, in other words, some people are so scared of transgender people that they want to kill them. (A phobia is an irrational fear.)

This is puzzling to me. Transgender is a word that means a person has a different gender identity to the one that their parents thought they were when they were born. A long time ago, this would have been very difficult. These days, you can update your birth certificate and passport. Modern medicine and clever doctors can help you change lots of physical attributes to better reflect your true gender. Surely, these are all good things and life is relatively straightforward?

Alas for me, I take a simplistic view of the world. Apparently, the existence of transgender people is scary to some people. Perhaps it confuses them? Maybe they are poorly educated and believe gender is contagious? I really don’t know. Because I cannot understand why any gender scares them, I find it hard to figure out their reasoning and illogic.

So, we’re left with a sad situation whereby we have an actual annual event to mark the deaths of everyday humans who died because someone else was terrified of their mere existence. In fact, there is a depressingly long list on the TDOR website, categorised by year of death.

Transgender Day of Remembrance; Your Identity

Not all babies are born in the image we expect. Sometimes, for example, bits of your skull don’t fuse together in the usual manner and you’re born with a cleft palate. Then, a skilled doctor must perform an operation to join together your cleft lip. This is done when you’re still a baby, so you won’t really remember it although your mom may have photos of you pre-surgery. If you’re very lucky, that may be all you ever need. Otherwise, it’s not uncommon to need further treatment – or, in worst case scenarios, lifelong treatment – for craniofacial complications. For example, the cleft palate may affect your jaw and teeth development.

That seems straightforward, doesn’t it? Well, is it not also straightforward that sometimes babies are born with the physical appearance of the “wrong” gender? You may need medication or counselling while you’re still a child. Perhaps, it takes a long time to diagnose and you need a lot of medication and surgery when you’re an adult. (Although, maybe you don’t want or need surgery. If you’re quite old, you are probably used to the way your body works. Physical appearance isn’t the same as gender.) Maybe there are lifelong complications that your doctor or therapist needs to monitor. But you’re still you. Even if some rogue genes developed the wrong way, and you’re born with a cleft palate or transgender, you’re always just you.

Transgender Day of Remembrance; Witness It

Regardless of my thoughts, the most important thing is that today exists. It is meaningful to some people. It is a day of remembrance, of solemnity and measured thought. If you’re like me and don’t fully understand, I like to try learning something about the occasion. If I still don’t really understand much, I try to take comfort in knowing that I have witnessed the occasion. By that, I mean that I have recognised it as something of importance. Bearing witness is as old as the ages – it is simply saying, “I have heard and acknowledged.”

If you do nothing else today, witness it is Transgender Day of Remembrance. Listen to any friends that want to talk about it. Acknowledge that some people have greatly suffered due to ignorance, intolerance and groundless fears. It doesn’t have to be important to your life for it to be significant and valid for someone else’s life.

Transgender Day of Remembrance; Teaching Ideas

I think the best way of teaching about transgender and TDoR would be to take the same sort of lesson ideas that we use for celebrating other differences. Follow on from teaching about different skin colours or different abilities. We are all the same on the inside and we all have special traits that make us unique.

You may be familiar with the egg experiment that is often used for teaching about different skin colours. Basically, you have a brown egg and a white egg. You ask the kids to describe the eggs – this is usually colour. Then, you carefully crack each egg open and tip the contents into two bowls. Ask the kids to describe the eggs again. This time, the descriptions should be the same because the eggs are the same on the inside.

For transgender lessons, perhaps you could paint some eggs or attach some decorative features. Make your eggs look different on the outside. Maybe, even, write Mr on one egg and Mrs on another egg? Then, do the egg experiment as usual.

What we are on the outside doesn’t change who we are on the inside. For older children, you can also talk about personalities and – if religious – souls. Things that we can’t even see.

Here are some additional resources that may be useful.

Transgender Day of Remembrance; Help

If any of these issues affect you personally, and you feel you cannot talk about it with your friends and family, please consider one of the following helplines.

  • Stonewall supports LGBT people; call them on 08000 502020.
  • Mermaids support transgender children and their families; their number is 0344 334 0550.
  • The Beaumont Society supports transgender people; they have a 24/7 helpline on 01582 412220

However, I would also encourage you to reconsider talking to your friends and family. No one worth knowing will love you any less. They may not fully understand your thoughts or see things the same way as you. But that’s just because we’re all different. You don’t need to completely understand the “why” or the “how” to accept the “now”. I love all my acquaintance exactly as they are. Your acquaintance loves you exactly as you are. The ones that don’t can have your pity, even as you disengage from them. You are not forever responsible for people that refuse to learn, to grow and to love.