Transgender Day of Remembrance - November 20, 2013

Lateisha Green

On this 15th Transgender Day of Remembrance we reflect on the many transgender people whose lives have been lost to violence, including Harlem resident Islan Nettles, the 21-year-old African American transgender woman who was viciously attacked last August by a man who shouted anti-transgender and anti-gay slurs at her and her friends. She died at Harlem Hospital several days after the assault and the case is still unsolved.

We also remember Syracuse resident Lateisha "Teish" Green (pictured at right), the 22-year-old African American transgender woman who was shot and killed at close range by Dwight DeLee after DeLee uttered anti-transgender and anti-gay slurs. November 14 marked five years since the tragic incident. Unbelievably, DeLee, who was convicted of first degree manslaughter as a hate crime in Teish’s killing, was released from prison after The New York Supreme Court’s 4th Appellate Division set aside the jury’s verdict on a technicality. We, along with Teish's friends, family and a number of civil rights organizations, continue to urge the New York Court of Appeals to reverse the ruling and restore at least a measure of justice for Teish.

The Transgender Day of Remembrance began in 1999 when activists held a vigil to honor Boston activist, Rita Hester, a 34-year-old African American transgender woman who was brutally murdered the previous year in her apartment. Transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith organized what has grown into a worldwide commemoration of all those killed by anti-transgender violence. Hundreds of thousands of people across the globe now observe the solemn day. On average more than one transgender person is murdered per month around the world. The vast majority of victims are transgender women of color like Islan Nettles, Teish Green and Rita Hester. In addition to violence, transgender people face huge disparities in access to health care, education, employment opportunities, housing and public accommodations. But despite such obstacles, transgender people continue to be extremely resilient, overcoming immense odds to access the services they need, and working hard to lead happy, healthy and productive lives.

The loss of Islan, Teish, Rita and countless others is a stark reminder of the need to eliminate anti-transgender violence and hatred in our society. The Transgender Day of Remembrance gives all of us the opportunity to rededicate ourselves to that mission.