By Alex Johnson
In 1998, Rita Hester, a transgender woman, was murdered. Her killer was never found. The following year, transgender activist, Gwendolyn Ann Smith, held a vigil not only for Hester, but for all transgender people that had lost their lives to violence since her death. The vigil became an annual memorial known as the Transgender Day of Remembrance.
The Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) takes place every November, this year being Nov. 20. To honor TDoR, the L&C Diversity Council and LC Pride sponsored a free Zoom event with guest speaker Jaimie Hileman, Executive Director for Trans Education Service, LLC in St. Louis, Mo. The event was hosted by LC Pride advisor and Lewis and Clark Community College (L&C) professor Steve Higgins.
Hileman opened the meet with a brief history of the Transgender Day of Remembrance, but quickly moved to an open discussion; not wanting to focus on what she called her “grim statistics”, but rather create a dialogue about transgender lives.
Although everything from local support to Presidential administrations were discussed, awareness was the main theme of the talk; Hileman noted that awareness of the trans community has gone up drastically but there is still work that needs to be done. “[You] can’t take for granted that just because folks know us very well that they know us very well,” Hileman said.
While Illinois offers many protections for transgender citizens, that is not the case for everyone. “In 27 states an employer could say to me, explicitly, ‘I just found out you’re trans, I can’t do that, here’s a cardboard box, pack your stuff. Bye.’,” Hileman explained.
Less than half the states in the U.S. have some form of protection for transgender people; the Federal government has its own set of issues. “Ending the military ban [is important] because there are 13,000 trans folks serving who are re-closeted and not able to access pre- or post-transition care. There are another 3-4,000 who would like to serve or would like to be reinstated,” Hileman said, in regard to the trans-military ban.
While the incoming administration gives Hileman hope, she does note that the Senate, with its current majority leader, has explicitly stated it will not allow votes on any equality bills from President-Elect Joe Biden.
With COVID restrictions, ways to make connections as a community were also a concern that was discussed.
“I’ve been very concerned for students that are part of the community that might be in a living situation where their identities aren’t respected; hopefully they could have come to our club and be around folks who are like minded,” said Higgins during the open form, “it’s been worrying for me [with COVID lockdowns].”
The LC Pride Facebook page is a great resource for those needing support; links to the Metro Trans Umbrella Group, TransParent USA and Washington University Transgender Center can be found on the LC Pride Facebook page.
The LC Pride group meets virtually every Thursday at 3 p.m. For more information email Steven Higgins at Shiggins@lc.edu or Shaggy Draper at email@example.com.