Over 50 people gathered in the South Park Blocks last night to honor transgender victims at Portland State’s vigil observing national Transgender Day of Remembrance and Trans Awareness Month on campus. The event’s organizers said the vigil is a way to raise awareness about an issue that is often ignored.
Over 50 people gathered in the South Park Blocks last night to honor transgender victims at Portland State’s vigil observing national Transgender Day of Remembrance and Trans Awareness Month on campus.
The event’s organizers said the vigil is a way to raise awareness about an issue that is often ignored.
“PSU has a lot of trans students whose needs aren’t being addressed,” said Zena Piccolo, chair of the Women’s Resource Center Advisory Board and the vigil’s chief speaker. “We want students to know that there are resources and how to be an ally.”
Piccolo read a 17-page list of victims of transgender hate lost between 1970 and today, compiled by the Remembering Our Dead project, a transgender memorial webpage.
Many of the victims on the list were not identified, being referred to as unknown victims. Piccolo spoke of the importance of publicly recognizing these victims and the lack of media coverage.
“Not everyone’s beautiful, blue eyed–worth mentioning as far as the media is concerned,” she said.
A candlelight vigil was held in the Southwest Park Blocks Thursday night to observe Transgender Day of Remembrance, the culmination of Trans Awareness Month. The event was organized by the Queer Resource Center with help from co-sponsors the Associated Students of Portland State University, the Women’s Resource Center and student group Queers and Allies. A performance by spoken word/hip-hop artist Athens Boys Choir immediately followed the vigil in the PSU Multicultural Center.
At the vigil, Tash Shatz, equal rights advocate for ASPSU, read poetry from a transgender blog.
Shatz also spent some time outside before the event, reading his own slam poetry in order to increase visibility for the vigil.
“My goal for this vigil is to bring awareness and visibility to anti-trans violence that is so pervasive and so invisible in our society,” said Shatz. He said he was especially excited for Athens Boys Choir’s performance, stressing the importance of keeping the event positive.
“I think it’s important because a lot of times when we’re talking about trans hate, it’s all about the negative perceptions that society has,” Shatz said. “I’m all about that positivity.”
Also speaking at the event was Rose Sims, who identified herself as transgender and read an original poem.
The vigil was held at 6 p.m. on Nov. 20, in front of Smith Memorial Student Union. Attendees included students, faculty and community members.
Nov. 20, the national Transgender Day of Awareness, was first honored in 1998 after the murder of Rita Hester, the event that also sparked the Remembering Our Dead project. The event is now honored on many college campuses and in cities worldwide.