Transgender Day of Remembrance Raises Visibility in Turbulent Times
Wednesday, Nov. 20
"Each year during Transgender Awareness Week in November, we are reminded of how far we have come in the quest for equal civil rights, but we are also reminded of how much farther we have to go," says Caitlyn Strohmeyer, founder and board member of TransFamily of NWPA, an organization that provides peer-to-peer support to people who identify as gender variant. "As our community becomes more visible and better understood, our detractors have doubled down with legislative efforts to deny our community the civil rights protections provided for in our constitution, simply because they do not understand us," according to Strohmeyer, who is also a crisis clinician at Safe Harbor Behavioral Health in Erie.
Each year, on Nov. 20, a candlelight vigil is held on the steps of the Erie County Courthouse to honor the memory of those we have lost due to anti-transgender violence. According to a 2018 report from the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, at least 128 transgender and gender-expansive people have been killed in the U.S. since 2013. Six of those deaths occurred in Pennsylvania.
Transgender and gender-variant people are increasingly marginalized and put at risk by the Trump Administration. In late October, for example, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a new rule removing a requirement that recipients of HHS grants must enforce nondiscrimination rules prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. According to Strohmeyer, this will "allow anti-transgender discrimination in HIV and STI prevention programs, opioid programs, youth homelessness services, health professional training, substance use recovery programs, and many other life-saving service organizations addressing crises with a disparate impact on transgender people in the US."
People in our community are vulnerable and the stakes are growing higher. One place where you can offer support, solidarity, and visibility is on the courthouse steps in downtown Erie this November. — Dan Schank
6:30 p.m. // Erie County Courthouse, 140 W. 6th St. // (Organizers request that you show up fifteen minutes prior to receive a candle) // facebook.com/TransfamilyOfNWPA