A symbol of new life will officially launch in St. Louis on a day set aside for commemorating violent deaths. Organizers and the public will dedicate the new Transgender Memorial Garden on Friday, the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance.
The garden at the intersection of Vandeventer and Hunt in The Grove area is thought to be the nation’s first, according to Jaimie Hileman, president of the Metro Trans Umbrella Group’s board of directors.
“This garden serves both as a reminder of those whom we’ve lost and also as a very living and tangible symbol of hope in our city that tomorrow will be better days,” Hileman said.
The dedication will take place at 4:30 p.m. Friday evening, a service at the Metropolitan Community Church, 1920 7th St. in the Soulard area will take place at 7 p.m. It will include a traditional reading of the names of those killed the year before. This year, they’ll also highlight specific information about the victims.
“What were their hopes and dreams, what did they enjoy doing, what were some of the things that their friends and family and people who cared about them really loved?” Hileman said.
The international Day of Remembrance was spearheaded in 1998 to remember people who were killed for their gender expression.
So far this year in the U.S., 21 people have died from violent attacks, most of them transgender women of color. That’s eight more than were killed in all of 2014. None of this year’s dead was from the St. Louis area, but one lived in Kansas City, Mo. and another in the Chicago area.
Around the world, dozens more were killed, including 55 in Brazil, alone.
Numbers for non-lethal violence and harassment are elusive, Hileman said. Many transgender people don’t go to the police after threats or attacks.
“A lot of times they don’t get reported, so the statistics are junk,” Hileman said.
Hileman said the Transgender Day of Remembrance is also a time to think about other issues, including inequality in employment and how that can contribute to the violence. Transgender individuals are unemployed at twice the national rate. Double it again for transgender people of color.
Hileman said not having a job compromises safety.
“Having a car, not having to walk in public at night from a job to job: there are a lot of things we take for granted that trans people can’t,” Hileman said. “It puts them in situations where they’re more in danger.”
Hileman said that many transgender people in St. Louis do not feel safe, especially trans women of color. Missouri has no anti-discrimination laws covering gender identity (or sexual orientation). Still Hileman sees hope for the future.
“We look very much forward to a Nov. 20 where there are no names to read,” Hileman said.
Three transgender women talk about the violence and harrassment they and others have experienced, in this video from GLAAD, a media watchdog and educator around LGBT issues.
Transgender Day of Remembrance Events in St. Louis
Transgender Memorial Garden Dedication
Where: Corner of Vandeventer and Hunt in The Grove
When: 4:30 p.m., Friday, Nov. 20
Information: Dedication Facebook page
Transgender Day of Remembrance Service
Where: Metropolitan Community Church, 1920 7th St., 63104
When: 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 20
Information: Remembrance Service Facebook page
Follow Nancy Fowler on Twitter: @NancyFowlerSTL