At least 22 transgender people have been killed in 2018, according to a new report from the Human Rights Campaign. Eighty-two percent of them were women of color. It’s likely more lives were lost because anti-trans violence is often unreported or misreported.
Trans Day of Remembrance, an annual event held on Nov. 20, honors the people who died as a result of anti-trans violence. Gwendolyn Ann Smith founded the event in 1999 to honor Rita Hester, a black trans woman who was killed in 1998. Every year since then, people have attended vigils to commemorate victims across the country and around the world.
The Trans Day of Resilience art project is an extension of the observance, and it was started by Forward Together, an organization that “unites communities to win rights, recognition and resources for all families.” Although Nov. 20 is a day to mourn and honor the dead, it’s also a day to support trans people of color who are alive and thriving. So for the fourth year in a row, Forward Together has teamed up with trans and non-binary artists and trans justice organizations to create four original pieces of art.
“At a time when depictions of trans folks often center around suffering and death, we want to celebrate the lives of trans, gender non-conforming and non-binary people in the most unifying way — through art,” said Prerna Sampat, a spokesperson with Forward Together, in a statement. “Art is fundamental to all social movements because it reconnects us to our deepest values, to what we hold sacred, and to each other.”
Ashleigh Shackelford is an artist and organizer with Solutions Not Punishment Collaborative, a black, trans-led organization in Atlanta. It centers people who often don’t have resources or support, such as people who were formerly incarcerated, black queer folks, and people who are living with HIV.
Of these 23 beautiful lives taken from us in 2018, 22 were trans women. 16 were Black. One died in immigration enforcement custody. We remember, we cherish, & we rise up against transmisogyny, anti-Blackness, and the criminalization of migrants. #TDOR #TransDayofRemembrance pic.twitter.com/tbTx7CGvcK
— TransgenderLawCenter (@TransLawCenter) November 20, 2018
In collaboration with SNaP Co., Shackelford created a piece to “celebrate, highlight, honor, humanize, and defend Black sex workers of trans experience.” Shackelford also made it a point to showcase body diversity and center fat bodies. The idea for her piece stemmed from conversations about exactly who is dying.
“We are multi-faceted beings that can celebrate and be joyful and mourn and protest and be angry, all at the same time.”
“In being intentional and specific to who is dying, who is being killed, we’re talking about black, trans femmes and women who often are engaging in sex work, whether that be survival sex work or something that they utilize as a means to find economic survival,” says Shackelford. “We know capitalism intentionally makes it that much harder for black trans folks, specifically black trans women and femmes, to find means to make a livable wage and survive.”
Shackelford wants the narrative to be about empowering and protecting trans folks every day while acknowledging the reality that the intersection of anti-blackness and transphobia are constant. It’s not acceptable to tokenize black trans people or depict them as caricatures.
“We are multi-faceted beings that can celebrate and be joyful and mourn and protest and be angry, all at the same time,” says Shackelford. “We should have the space and opportunity to do so every day of the year, but especially on this day.”
To support Forward Together‘s campaign, download and share the artwork on social media, making sure to credit the artists and organizations with the handles listed below. If you’d like to learn about other ways you can support the trans community, consider these tips.