OCEANSIDE — On Nov. 17, 2011, Cassidy Vickers, a transgender woman, was shot in the chest and murdered in Hollywood, Calif. On Dec. 30, 2011, a transgender woman named Githe Goines was strangled to death and dumped in a scrap yard in New Orleans.
On Aug. 17, 2012, Laryssa Silveira, a transgender woman in Brazil, was shot in the face and chest and was left by the side of the road.
These names and over 30 others were read by members of the North County LGBTQ Resource Center to commemorate the transgender people murdered over the past year throughout the world during a ceremony for the TDOR (Transgender Day of Remembrance) on Nov. 20.
Just over 40 attendees repeated, “We must not forget them,” as they held candles at the Oceanside Civic Plaza.
TDOR is held annually each November in honor of Rita Hester, who was murdered on Nov. 28, 1998. Her murder launched the “Remembering Our Dead” web project and a candlelight vigil in San Francisco in 1999.
Since then, TDOR has taken place in more than 180 cities in more than 20 countries around the world, according to Transgender Europe, which tracks the murders of transgender people through the Trans Murder Monitoring project.
Since last year’s TDOR, 265 transgender people have been murdered, according to the project’s count as of Nov. 14. Yet these numbers only include the murders that have been officially reported.
This year is the third TDOR that has been commemorated in North County.
“As you can tell, it’s always a struggle to do something in North County,” said the Executive Director of the Center, Max Disposti, referring to events focusing on the transgender community. He said they invited public figures and reporters to attend the event, but to no avail.
By comparison, he said that the transgender flag-raising ceremony at Hillcrest that morning attracted several San Diego community leaders and a larger crowd.
“We don’t have the official open support of our local governments. Unfortunately they don’t see it as really a priority,” said Disposti. Despite this, he said that the Center hopes to educate local institutions on how to report on transgender crimes.
“Things like gay pride, thousands upon thousands of people show up, but with a thing like this, no one is here,” said John Jones, the president of the LGBTQ club at Cal State San Marcos.
But for the people who attended, the event exposed just how real violence against transgender people is, but also revealed the community and support offered by the Center.
“I felt like I couldn’t be alone tonight, I wanted to be with people who understood me,” said Anduhil Jewel-Billow, a 25-year-old transgender woman who attends a transgender meeting group at the Center. She said that reading the names of the murder victims affected her deeply and she could not help but think, “God, these people are all just like me.”
“It really hits me hard. It could be me, it could be my friends, it could be someone I admire,” said Dante Roush, a 22-year-old transgender man who goes to the Center weekly.
In previous years, Roush said he commemorated TDOR alone at home, and was grateful to be able to attend the ceremony with other Center members this year.
Aside from clubs at local high schools and colleges, the Center is one of the few resources available for the LGBTQ community in North County.
The Center opened in Nov. 2011, and provides services including support groups, HIV/AIDS testing and prevention, counseling, civil rights advocacy, classes and workgroups. More information can be found at ncresourcecenter.org.