Atlanta holds 'Transgender Day of Remembrance'

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About a hundred people gathered at Georgia State University Sunday afternoon to honor the lives of transgender people murdered all over the world in 2016.

Every year, Atlantans take part in the Transgender Day of Remembrance, or TDOR, an international event.

"This is so important because we have trans people, human beings who are being murdered senselessly solely based on our gender identity and we just want people to be aware that we're not asking for special treatment;  we're asking to be treated fairly and receive the same human rights that all other human beings are receiving," explained Tracee McDaniel, who has organized the event for the past nine years.

Participants lit a candle and took turns reading the names of transgender murder victims out loud.  A bell tolled for each one.

"We wanted to memorialize the deceased because in most cases trans people are ostracized from their families," said McDaniel.  "So we wanted to say their names just to memorialize them and let them know that they're important to us."  

Speakers at the event ranged from LGBT advocates to performance artists to local pastors.


Political change

While TDOR was focused on mourning the deaths of transgender people, it also took on a political tone.
Some expressed concerns about the outcome of this month's presidential election and what it could mean for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.  

Under President Barack Obama's administration, LGBT Americans saw expanded rights and priviledges including the legalization of same-sex marriage.     

"For the transgender community that faces so much discrimination day in and day out, we know that the law are oftentimes slow to change and these rules and regulations are what has allowed people to keep their jobs, to keep their houses, to have access to adequate healthcare and those are the real stakes of this incoming administration," explained Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality.  

Many at Sunday's event said it is critical for the LGBT community to remain vigilent now that President-elect Donald Trump will be taking over the White House.

"Sometimes you take something that's bad--that people think is bad--and you turn it into a positive and what this does is revitalize the community," said Stan Lucas, who supports the transgender community.  "People got kind of complacent with Barack Obama and so this is really energizing the community and I think this time they're going to be a lot stronger."  

Remembering a leader

A longtime member and advocate for the transgender community passed away this fall and she was also recognized at Sunday's gathering.

Cheryl Courtney-Evans was remembered as a leader  and "hero" in metro Atlanta.

"Cheryl formed an organization called 'Transgender Individuals Living Their Truth," said Graham.  

According to Graham, Courtney-Evans passed away just a few weeks ago after a battle with cancer.

"It's a real loss to the community, because her organization really was a safe haven for a lot of folks that really wanted to learn job skills, wanted to better their lives and Cheryl provided a space and an opportunity for that to happen," said Graham.