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Transgender Day of Remembrance

Each year, on the 20th November, vigils are held across the world to commemorate the Transgender Day of Remembrance. The ceremony is a memorial to those who were killed due to anti-transgender discrimination, hatred or prejudice; at most ceremonies the victims of transgender violence in the area for that current year will be read out.

I want to take this opportunity to discuss trans people, help to define the differences between the terms ‘transgender’ and ‘transsexual’ and most importantly spread awareness of this significant historic event.

Trans people are at greater risk of depression, self-harm and suicide. A 2007 survey of 872 trans people found that 34% of respondents had considered suicide. This is considerably higher than the general population.

NHS UK survey, 2007

Understanding Transsexuality

What is ‘Transgender’?

Transgender is an umbrella term for any person who does not identify fully with their biological gender or anatomy, i.e. a person born with a female anatomy who identifies as a man, or a person who does not exclusively identify with either gender.

What is ‘Transsexual’?

A transsexual is a person who believes their sex at birth is wrong and so changes their appearance to look, dress and act like the opposite sex. The term ‘transsexual’ especially covers someone who undergoes medical changes to become a member of the opposite sex.

What is the difference between the two?

Being transsexual differs to being transgender in that in most cases, a transsexual person would wish to have surgery and/or hormone treatment to become the sex they identify with. Transexuality is a recognised medical condition and support is available. Transgender may just associate with the opposite gender, sometimes wearing gender-typical clothes, without requiring a change of their own biological gender.

What is ‘Transvestite’?

This term covers people who dress as the opposite sex for emotional or sexual pleasure. It can mean someone who changes their clothing for a few hours at home, or someone who lives permanently dressed as the opposite sex.  In most cases they neither need, nor want, medical treatment.


A common misconception is that transpeople are always gay. In actual fact, trans people’s sexuality varies as much as that of non-trans people. They too can be straight, gay, bisexual, asexual, pansexual etc. Gender has no effect on sexuality.

Transgender Day of Remembrance:

In November 1998, the San Francisco transgender community lost one of their most prolific members. Rita Hester, a patron of many transgender clubs and societies, was stabbed to death in an unsolved attack. Anger grew throughout the transgender community as newspapers continued to report Rita’s death using male pronouns, despite Rita having lived as a female for over ten years. Transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith created the Transgender Day of Remembrance to honour the memory of Rita Hester, and all other transgender people lost that year.

The Transgender Day of Remembrance seeks to highlight the losses we face due to anti-transgender bigotry and violence. I am no stranger to the need to fight for our rights, and the right to simply exist is first and foremost. With so many seeking to erase transgender people — sometimes in the most brutal ways possible — it is vitally important that those we lose are remembered, and that we continue to fight for justice.

– Transgender Day of Remembrance founder Gwendolyn Ann Smith

Since 1998 the event has taken place each year, spreading awareness across the world.

LGBTQIA+ stands for “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, and other minorities

Information gathered from the following sources:



Digital Copywriter. Background in visual communications, brand management, visual merchandising and retail management.

One thought on “Transgender Day of Remembrance

  1. Thank you for explaining this, I’ve got the two meanings the wrong way around! I knew a transvestite can be gay – bi or straight and it’s more about the thrill of the clothes. I think it’s wonderful there is a day like this but so tragic that there needs to be. In the end we are all just people x

    Liked by 1 person

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