GRAY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Dozens of people gathered at a ceremony Friday to memorialize the lives of 22 people who were killed in the U.S. this year because they were transgender, many of them considered hate crimes.
It’s called the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR), and trans support groups from across the Tri-Cities came together for a special ceremony at Holston Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Gray.
“The level of violence against the transgender community is unspeakable,” said Beth Sluder, spokesperson for PFLAG Tri-Cities.
“The murders are very very violent, there are stabbings. One individual this year was run over multiple times,” Sluder told News Channel 11.
She said ceremonies like Friday’s TDOR are important not only to remember those who were killed, but to support members of the transgender community, many of whom spoke at the ceremony about their personal experiences transitioning.
“Many of us are risking jobs, our reputations, and our personal safety to be here tonight and speak, it’s a fear that we live with everyday, and it’s a fear of the same transphobia that killed these people for simply being who they are,” said Aaron Granoski, a representative for HEROES, a transgender support group at East Tennessee State University.
“In our ceremony tonight we extinguish candles, and the room became darker because that’s what happens when you lose lives like this,” said Max Savage.
Savage said he began his transition earlier this year and has had the support of his employer and family to help him along the way.
“I’m very privileged for the good experience that I’ve had, most transgender folks don’t have such a good experience with that,” he said.
Sluder said people may be surprised to find out who among their friends and neighbors are going through the same thing.
“Be careful who you hate, it may end up being someone that you love,” she said.
This year’s remembrance service was the first time several advocacy groups in the Tri-Cities have come together for a joint service.
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