CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- November is usually known for two holidays: Thanksgiving and Veteran's Day. And while it's important to celebrate what we have to be thankful for as well as to honor our veterans for their duty and the sacrifices they've made for us, there's another important holiday this month that you probably haven't heard of.
November 20 is the Transgender Day of Remembrance, a memorial holiday that honors murder victims whose deaths were a result of anti-transgender violence. Transgender woman, writer and advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith started it in 1999.
Smith arranged a vigil to honor the death of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was murdered in 1998, as well as others who lost their lives due to transphobic hate crimes. From there, the day of remembrance for innocent victims of heinous hate crimes took off, and it's on this day we recognize their suffering and pay our respects to them and their memory.
Transgender people (primarily transgender women) face the highest levels of violence and discrimination in the LGBT community. However, it should be noted that not all victims of transphobic hate crimes are transgender themselves, but, as noted on the holiday's official website, www.transgenderdor.org, all acts of violence committed towards the individuals stemmed from bias against transgender people.
You might be wondering what exactly being transgender means. While plenty of people appear to have a basic understanding of lesbians, gays and bisexuals, the "T" of LGBT seems to go widely unnoticed.
People aren't as informed as they should be, and this isn't just a problem outside of the LGBT community. As a gay male, I'm still not as aware about the transgender community as I should be.
The summaries and explanations I'm about to give you are as basic as they possibly can be, and I highly encourage you to research these terms yourself. As society slowly makes progress towards becoming more accepting of LGBT individuals, it's important to understand the LGBT community, regardless of whether or not you are a member.
Transgender is basically an umbrella term covering many different things relating to gender identity. Gender identity is the way someone personally perceives his or her own gender, whether it's in or outside of the gender binary. (We'll talk about the binary in a minute).
Transgender people are those whose gender identity is the opposite of the gender they were born. As such, they seek to live their lives in what they believe to be the correct way and may undergo sexual reassignment (gender affirmation) surgery or take hormones. However, a person does not have to undergo surgery or hormone therapy to be transgender.