‘Stand in solidarity’: BP Richards hosts Transgender Day of Remembrance ceremony at Queens Borough Hall

Photo courtesy of Ethan Marshall.

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards hosted the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance ceremony outside Queens Borough Hall Thursday, Nov. 17, during which several LGBTQIA+ community leaders, allies and elected officials gathered to take part in honoring those lost to anti-trans violence over the last year.

Members of the Caribbean Equality Project at the Transgender Remembrance Day ceremony. (Photo by Adrian Childress)

According to the Human Rights Campaign, over the last year, at least 32 transgender or gender-nonconforming individuals were killed in targeted acts of violence. This number is likely much bigger because many cases end up not being reported or are misreported. Many of those killed were Black and Latinx transgender women.

Many of the speakers at the ceremony emphasized the importance of equality, equity, jobs and homes for those in the transgender community. They encourage businesses not to be reluctant to hire transgender people if they are qualified for the job and inquired about funding for affordable housing for members of their community.

(Photo courtesy of Richards’ office)

“As we pay tribute to the nearly three dozen transgender Americans whom we’ve tragically lost this year alone, we must recommit ourselves to ending the reprehensible wave of transphobia and anti-trans violence sweeping our country,” Richards said. “I stand in solidarity with our transgender and gender-nonconforming neighbors and we will stop at nothing to ensure Queens is a safe place for them. Hate cannot and must not have a home here in the ‘World’s Borough.’”

Among the organizations that co-sponsored the vigil were Queens Community House, Caribbean Equality Project, TransLatinx Network, LGBT Network, G.L.I.T.S., Generation Q, the Queens Center for Gay Seniors and Make the Road New York. In addition to many LGBTQIA+ community leaders, allies and elected officials speaking at the event, Brenda Continental, a Guyanese-born trans performer and activist, put on a special performance to honor those lost in the community.

According to Generation Q Assistant Director Julia Peitzer, the transgender community is one of the most vulnerable communities in the world. Peitzer said she’s been living authentically for more than a decade. She emphasized the importance of mourn those lost in the community and to support each other.

Generation Q Assistant Director Julia Peitzer (Photo courtesy of Richards’ office)

“We lost people who fought like hell to be who they are in a world that told them over and over not to be,” Peitzer said. “We lost siblings in this fight — some I knew personally, some I’ll never get to know. We as a community will continue this fight. We will continue to live authentically in spite of a world that seeks to ensure we do not.”

Assemblywoman Jessica González-Rojas touted two passed laws she sponsored that were meant to benefit the transgender community. The first law allowed for the names on bills like those for utilities and rent to be those these people identify as, helping to prevent dead naming. The second law was particularly meant to benefit transgender people interested in running for party positions. No longer do those who want to run have to be limited to checking off male or female for the gender question. There is now space for gender-nonconforming and non-binary people to run.

LGBT Network Regional Director J.R. Cehonski emphasized the importance of combating hate. In addition to members of the transgender community helping and supporting each other, he said those within the cisgender community, like himself, should also be there for them. He expressed concern about transphobic rhetoric growing across the United States, though expressed optimism for certain areas, like New York City, showing a willingness to stand up against this rhetoric.

“We’re very fortunate [transphobic] laws aren’t passing here [in New York City],” Cehonski said. “This rhetoric is much quieter but it’s growing and it’s important that we are here combating that rhetoric. We have to challenge ourselves to step up and be part of the fight.”

State Senator Jessica Ramos discussed the actions she’s taken as a legislator to help support the transgender community. She was able to help allocate $1 million in last year’s budget toward trans health equity. According to Ramos, this legislation gave trans people a budget line by name in the New York state budget for the first time. She also said she and other senators are currently in the process of working on new legislations centered around the transgender community. While she can’t announce the specifics yet, she did say it would be a priority come the next legislative session.

New York State Senator Jessica Ramos speaks at the ceremony. (Photo by Adrian Childress)

“Two of the biggest hindrances, outside of healthcare, for transgender people is the discrimination they face when it comes to employment and when it comes to housing,” Ramos said. “Housing is where public safety starts. If we are able to help our transgender neighbors have secure housing and have a secure job, they will be safe from those who want to hurt them.”