These People Died "Simply For Living Their Lives"

People will gather around the world on November 20 to remember victims of anti-trans violence.
Diana Sacayan dedicated her life to protecting the rights of the LGBTQ community in her native Argentina. But that work was cut tragically short in October, when the prominent activist was found murdered in her Buenos Aires home. She was one of three transgender women killed in Argentina in the span of a month, and she is one of dozens of men and women whose lives are honored on Friday, November 20, as crowds gather around the world to observe International Transgender Day Of Remembrance.

At least 79 people have died from anti-trans violence so far this year, according to a list maintained by International Transgender Day of Remembrance organizers. These figures, compiled based on media reports, do not even include suicide or acts of domestic violence. Anti-trans attacks are brutal, and many go unsolved. Another group, the Trans Murder Monitoring Project, has documented more than 1,700 deaths over seven years.

International Transgender Day Of Remembrance started in San Francisco in 1999, as a candlelight vigil honoring Rita Hester, a transgender woman found dead in her Massachusetts apartment the year before. Now, 16 years later, observance of the day has spread across the globe. Organizers say there will be more than 300 events worldwide this year.

"We want people to honor the people that have fallen just simply by living their life," Marti Abernathey, a volunteer who helps run the International Transgender Day of Remembrance list and website, told Refinery29. "They weren't activists...some of them are, but that’s not why they died. They died simply because they were trans and they were living their life. "
Mercedes Williamson was found dead in Alabama.
From Texas to Tel Aviv, crowds will form, often with candles, to read the names of those who lost their lives. The 2015 list includes: Diosvany Muñoz Robaina, a 24-year-old who was stoned to death in Cuba; Mercedes Williamson, a 17-year-old beaten to death in Rocky Creek, AL; and two unidentified women who were fatally shot in Peshawar, Pakistan. While many of the deaths recorded by TDOR organizers were in South America, at least 14 have been documented in the United States so far this year.

Abernathey said just hearing the names, ages, locations, and causes of death can have "a huge impact on people," and can help those outside the trans community understand "how brutal this is and how trans lives are not seen as valuable" in many parts of the world. She said the organizers' goal is to continue to improve and expand reporting on anti-trans violence in the years to come.

"We’re just bringing this community to a lot of peoples’ attention," Abernathey said. "That we exist, that we are out in society. And right now, our lives are in danger, even in America."

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