Trans Day of Remembrance vigil filled with heartfelt memories of lives lost in 2022
Trans people have spoken of the “trauma” they’ve experienced from the UK government and on gender identity clinic waiting lists, during a London event to mark Trans Day of Remembrance.
The Sunday (20 November) ceremony in Soho Square saw community members remember the lives of those the trans community lost in 2022.
A mixture of mournful speeches, appreciation for those who have the strength to fight on, and the unwavering activism that allows trans people to exist defined an extraordinary night.
Speaking to PinkNews, Not A Phase founder Danielle St James said: “The service was incredibly moving to all of us at Not A Phase. Hearing the stories of our siblings and allies that remain in grief was an incredibly visceral reminder of why our fight continues.
“The significance of events like these is in its space creation for us to feel and be with one another,” she continued.
“We know the strength that comes from reminding people to take up their deserved space.”
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Speakers including Jude Guaitamacchi, Cairo Nevitt, and Rebecca Di Havilland all touched upon those they had lost during 2022 and in the past, as well as their own struggles with transphobia.
Many spoke about trans activist Shay Lou Patten-Walker, who passed away aged 24 after taking their own life.
TransActual director Rico Chace said in his speech that “Shay was a beautiful person” and their legacy as a trans activist was exceptional.
“I interviewed them once and they were telling me about the horrendous things that have happened to them with the NHS… but they said they were so cool about it that you don’t even realise.
“You get so used to having trauma that you forget that it’s not normal and we don’t deserve this.”
Gender Identity Clinic waiting times can be as long as four years for an initial consultation alone. Many trans people seek private healthcare as a result, but this can come at an huge financial cost.
‘I refuse more trauma from government’
Chace echoed the feelings of many other speakers during the vigil, saying: “If the strong memories of our community are not pushing through, it means something is wrong and it means society and government [are] wrong.
“I refuse and we refuse to receive any more trauma from this government. So today we remember, but we don’t let them forget.”
Trans ally Kate Litman, whose trans sister Alice passed away on 26 May, spoke about her as a “sweet, gentle, and forgiving” person, while outlining the institutional issues that contributed to Alice’s decision to end her own life.
“After Alice died, we found out she had recently reached out to her GP for support,” she said.
“This is what she wrote: ‘I’ve had 6 sessions of NHS counselling, I’ve tried private therapy with no benefit. I receive private hormone prescriptions. I am unhappy with my care.’
‘”I’ve been on the Gender Identity Clinic waitlist for over 2 1/2 years with no end in sight. I need an appointment. I am struggling. I often feel hopeless and helpless and feel life is not worth living.'”
‘Angry, upset, but assured’
Others spoke about their own immense struggles with transphobia both internally and societally while battling wintery rain showers on the cold, November night.
But solidarity was more than just the shared LGBTQ+ advocacy at the event – it was also the sharing of an umbrella and a polite conversation between strangers who know the torrential downpour of existing as a trans person in the modern world.
Some, including Tish Weinman and Danielle James, shared their mix of heavy emotions during the proceedings, saying they were “angry, upset, but assured.”
Weinman said they believe there to be power in visibility, but a true goal in trans activism is to allow people to exist quietly and to stomp out the concept of “passing privilege”.
Passing privilege refers to the idea that trans people who “pass” as cisgender, or are rarely outed as being trans by their appearance alone, are more societally privileged than those who aren’t.
Elsewhere, Indonesian activist Dena Rachman said that, while the vigil was an emotional occasion, getting together to honour Trans Day of Remembrance was “so important for visibility.”
Actress Sophia Vi told those gathered how she was “done with being thick-skinned” and believed the future holds a world where trans people can be themselves without having to fear the worst.
As the event drew to a close, attendees were able to share their own stories with the crowd during an open forum section.
Some chose it as a moment to vent their frustrations about being trans in the UK, while others shared stories of those they had also lost in 2022.
There was an additional array of poems and songs performed, including from a speaker named Robin who shared an excerpt of a poem he wrote after coming out.
“There is joy in this life that people are not often able to see in us. Perhaps I can convince your inner cynic to be quiet momentarily. I write to preserve. I write so I can come back and remember joy as she was then, playful, and unforgiving,” he said.
After a moment of silence, in which the group stood in candlelight to represent those who passed this year, the quaint park in central London became a place for trans people to meet each other and share moments that were important to them.
Watching as people who had been othered by society chat freely about their pride and joy for the future of their lives was truly something special to behold.
That’s why Trans Day of Remembrance is so incredibly important – so the amazing people who would have been there if not for the unjust oppression of trans lives could have their stories shared through the words of others, and be remembered for the incredible people that they were.
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