By Cate Carrejo
Fordham’s Pride Alliance celebrated Transgender Day of Remembrance on Monday, Nov. 23, with a candlelight vigil and procession around Edward’s Parade. Eve Erickson, FCRH ’17, president of the Pride Alliance, led the group in recognition of the 87 transgender people who have been murdered so far in 2015. “[We] wanted to have people come out and really remember all of the lives of the transgender people who have been lost through senseless acts of violence and hate,” said Erickson.
The annual Day of Remembrance was instituted by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith in honor of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was killed in 1998. Sadly, this level of violence against the transgender community is all too common. Since 2008, more than 1,700 transgender people have been murdered, and 72 percent of all anti-LGBTQ homicides are committed against transgender women.
Ten percent of transgender people report being assaulted by health care professionals and 15 percent report being sexually assaulted while in police custody. Transgender Day of Remembrance seeks to commemorate survivors as well as victims.
“I feel like [the transgender community] is a community that’s not necessarily recognized as much as it should be and I really wanted to call attention to that,” said Erickson.
Pride Alliance is working to change the recognition of the transgender community. At a recent meeting, the group discussed transgender representation in the media, and how figures like Laverne Cox and Caitlyn Jenner are changing public perception of transgender people.
One issue the group identified as improvable is casting in television and films. “People who are transgender who are portrayed in the media are not necessarily always cast [with transgender actors] and that’s something that [we] think that should really change. It’s a great opportunity to show that transgender people are people and they have skills and talents and desires.”
Erickson hopes to build up the legacy of the group and include more of the student body. “We want to hold events like this every year and really let Fordham know that we’re here and recognizing it and we would love everybody to stand with us. A short term goal is just to educate people and to get as many people out to these events as we can.”
Pride Alliance is also in support of a movement toward more gender-neutral spaces on campus. “I think a good way we can improve housing to make everyone more comfortable and accommodated is to have gender neutral bathrooms in every dorm, in every hall on campus. I think that’s a way to just make everyone feel safe and recognized” said
Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus converted six gender neutral bathrooms on campus this year, with the help of FCLC’s gender activism group, The Positive. The Fordham Observer reported that Rose Hill’s Student Affairs office was involved in the talks, but the same changes have not yet been implemented at the Rose Hill campus. “It’s not just signage that implies that this is a unisex space,” Chris Hennessy, leader of The Positive, told The Observer in April. “This is a proactive and conscientious effort to be gender inclusive.”
Inclusion and remembrance are helping to heal and protect the transgender community, and Pride Alliance is contributing by bringing awareness of transgender issues to the Fordham community. “These are people with names, ages, families, friends, goals, dreams and they’re being killed because people don’t understand and people are scared, and I really want to change that,” said Erickson.